AS SPAIN continues to be gripped in a suffocating heatwave which started on Thursday and is expected to continue until at least Monday, reports of temperatures over 40ºC in the shade have become frequent – but records are still nowhere near being broken yet.
To date, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Spain for this month was on June 27, 1965, in Sevilla, where the mercury soared to 45.2ºC.
Inland Andalucía is often the hottest part of the country in summer – in fact, areas round the Guadalquivir river basin are expected to see figures of over 42ºC this weekend, with night temperatures of a minimum of 25ºC.
Elsewhere, thermometers are likely to see at least 35ºC and possibly above 40ºC in the daytime, and are extremely unlikely to drop below 20ºC during the coldest part of the night.
The record so far for the longest-running heatwave in Spain was just two years ago, from June 27 to July 22, 2015 – the most extensive for 40 years – with temperatures of over 40ºC in practically the whole of the country on July 6, whilst night temperatures for the entire month never went below 20ºC and, in Andalucía, Murcia, the Balearics and the province of Alicante, did not once drop below 25ºC.
The most extensive heatwave in geographical terms was between August 8 and 11, 2012, where figures sat above 40ºC in 40 provinces.
But it was summer 2003 which produced the highest number of deaths from heatstroke, with 141 people losing their lives.
Between the years 2000 and 2009, a total of 1,312 people died every year from heatstroke – not just in summer, when 2003 was the worst – of which the majority were in Madrid, with 2,291 and Barcelona, with 1,205.
Health authorities warn that those most at risk of heatstroke are people living in flats with no outside seating and no air-conditioning, meaning they are trapped all day in extreme temperatures, which explains why the highest death tolls were in major cities.
The health ministry urges everyone to drink non-alcoholic fluids constantly, even if they do not feel thirsty, and to avoid caffeine and alcohol as these dehydrate, as well as carrying out as little physical activity as possible between approximately noon and 17.00 on the mainland and Balearics and roughly 11.00 and 16.00 in the Canary Islands.
Light meals, lightweight 'breathable' clothing, and head covering are recommended.
Nobody should be left inside a parked vehicle for any length of time, since heatstroke can occur within five to 10 minutes in a healthy human, and even less time for children, the sick or the elderly.
Heatstroke is defined as a body temperature of 40ºC or above, which is extremely serious and frequently life-threatening – in fact, survival is rare at 42ºC or above and nobody is ever known to have remained alive with a body temperature of 43ºC or more.
Animals should never be left in a parked car even for a minute.
Anyone who sees a child or a pet in a parked car on a hot day is urged to call for help – and those who take matters into their own hands and break the window to let them out will not be punished at law.
So far this century, Spain has gone through 45 heatwaves, although it is rare to suffer just one per summer, so several more could be on the cards before 2017 is out.