Authorities on high alert as heatwave spreads across Catalonia

Public urged to take precautions as temperatures due to rise over 40 degrees in some places with hot weather forecast until Sunday

A couple walking around Tarragona during a heat wave in August 2018 (by Sílvia Jardí)
A couple walking around Tarragona during a heat wave in August 2018 (by Sílvia Jardí) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 26, 2019 12:16 PM

The Catalan authorities went on high alert on Tuesday as a heatwave began spreading across Catalonia, with the meteorological service forecasting temperatures rising above 40 degrees in some areas of the interior.

With the high temperatures expected to last until Sunday, the government activated its civil protection plan to combat the effects of the heatwave that is expected to reach all parts of the country by Thursday.

In particular, the authorities are concerned about the risk of wildfires, as the conditions of high temperatures combined with low humidity and high winds turn Catalonia's wooded areas into a potential tinderbox.

The authorities are advising the public to take special care when doing outdoor activities during the day, and to take precautions against the effects of the heat to protect babies and the elderly in particular.

Advice for the public

Other advice includes staying well-hydrated throughout the day, to avoid going outside at the hottest times of the day and, if necessary, to spend some time in public places that provide air conditioning, such as a shopping mall.

Local authorities have also been urged to make air-conditioned public buildings available, to pay special attention to over-75s who live alone or lack resources, and to monitor people with physical disabilities or mobility problems.

Meanwhile, the department of employment has warned people working outside to take precautions, and has called on firms to allow employees frequent breaks in cool places and to provide water and, if necessary, sun cream and protective clothing.

Employees working outside in agriculture, construction, gardening and forestry are at particular risk, but also those who work in hot conditions in such places as bakeries, kitchens, laundries and forges.

Heatwaves and the climate crisis

Heatwaves in June like the current one are increasingly common in Catalonia and Spain as a whole, with seven of the nine June heatwaves registered since 1975 all taking place since 2001, according to the state meteorological service, Aemet.

According to Aemet, summers in general are lasting five weeks longer than in 1980 as well as being generally hotter. The forecast for this summer is that temperatures will be on average some 0.5ºC warmer than the historical average.

The general rise in temperatures is attributed to the climate crisis, with experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning in its Fifth Assessment Report that "it is very likely that heatwaves will become more frequent and last longer."