South African Expats Roast in Europe’s Record-Breaking Heat Wave

Europe’s record-breaking heat wave – which has seen temperatures soar to over 45 degrees in some parts – is putting South Africans in the shade, literally.

A woman stands under a shower on the beach in Nice as a heatwave hits much of the country, France, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

A large reservoir of hot air from the Sahara has engulfed Europe, with France registering its hottest day ever on record today, the first time the country has raised its heat alert to the highest level – red – signalling temperatures of “dangerous intensity” that are more typical of Saudi Arabia. Four thousand schools were closed.

A few days ago people were already cooling off in the Trocadero fountains across from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
FILE PHOTO: This was the scene on 15 July 2003 when tourists and locals cooled down in the fountains of the Trocadero near the Eiffel tower,REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

Italy, Spain (where two people have died) and Switzerland have also issued red warnings as the heatwave suffocates much of the continent.

For many South Africans abroad, it’s not just the temperature, but the different type of heat that is felt in Europe.


Nineteen-year-old Jordan from Mossel Bay says he’s spent most of the day indoors to avoid the sun. He’s currently in the sweltering South of France, seeking work on super yachts in Antibes.

“Now I understand why people always say the South African weather is so good – it’s not because we’re ‘sunny SA’, but because our weather is generally more moderate,” he says. “And even though the temperature here today was ‘only’ 36 degrees, it felt like 46.”

Cooling off in Antibes in the South of France, 28 June 2019 (with super yachts in the distance). Thabiso: “I never sweated like this in South Africa.” Photo supplied.

His flatmate Thabiso (24), from the Western Cape, agrees. After working on a yacht most of today, he says: “I never sweated like this in South Africa. Here, if I walk less than 100 metres, my body’s wet. And I really notice the sun hitting my skin – it’s scorching, like a burning sensation that makes me feel as if I’m trapped in a greenhouse!”

The hottest temperature in France was recorded near Nimes (famous for being the place where denim was invented) in southern France – at 45.1 degrees celcius.

For Zimbabwean expat Alison, who lives in nearby Montpelier, her car actually registered 47 degrees! She says fortunately it’s a dry heat in her region… “BUT it’s sweltering. I’ve never experienced anything this hot and I’ve lived in Zimbabwe, SA and Australia!

“It’s crazy when one looks forward to the weather tomorrow being 36 degrees!”

France Meteo said the highest temperature recorded in France today was 45.1 but one Zimbabwean expat, Alison, suffered 47 degree temps in her car near Montpelier.

Barbara Emonet in Montreux, Switzerland agrees. She says: “I have never known anything like it… having lived in Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia 😥. It’s hell 👹”

Captain Marky Warren in Spain – originally from KZN – has just embarked on a trip sailing around the world (follow his adventures here), and says he’s been “absolutely cooking” in Mallorca today where it was a cool 39.2 degrees celcius.

Captain Marky Warren measured 39.2 degree temps on his boat in Spain.

“I’ve jumped in the water about 50 times! 😅” he says. One of his Johannesburg friends says: “I’ll stay in Jozi where the climate is more liveable!”

Ives Squassero in northern Italy jokes he wants winter back. “It’s suffocating hot… the chemist had 41°c on their display outside!”

Jacci Friemond Rudling further south in Tuscany said “it’s so hot that I grab a coffee on the piazza before 10am and then hide inside for the rest of the day 😂”

While the South African Weather Service has predicted a “low likelihood of light snowfall and/or sleet” over parts of the Northern Cape, Free State and Eastern Cape… more unbearably hot days are expected in Europe until early next week.

The weather forecaster Meteo France said Friday’s temperature was a whole degree above the previous high of 44.1 Celsius recorded in August 2003.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the European heatwave was “absolutely consistent” with extremes linked to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.

In Catalonia, northeast Spain, wildfires – the worst in 20 years – were raging across 60 sq km of land, but firefighters said that area could quadruple. Farmers were asked to stop all work across the region for 48 hours.

In the great Paris region (Ile de France) more than half of cars were banned from roads as the stifling heat worsened air pollution.

Although people were advised to not go outdoors, some chose to cool off in the sea in Marseille as a heatwave hits much of the country, France, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
People cool off in the sea in Marseille as a heatwave hits much of the country, France, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
People cool off on the Miroir d’Eau (Mirror of Water), a public art piece on the quay of the Garonne river as France prepares to swelter in record high June temperatures, in Bordeaux, France June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
A woman tries to cool off by the sea as a heatwave hits Europe, in Sliema, Malta, June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Men enjoy themselves at the beach, as a heatwave hits Spain, in Malaga, southern Spain June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca
A man cools off in the water of a fountain in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
Tourists fill bottles with water at a fountain, as a heatwave hits Spain, in Ronda, southern Spain June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca
A tourist uses an umbrella to protect himself from the sun, as a heatwave hits Spain, in Ronda, southern Spain June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca
People swim in the Eisbach river that runs through the English Garden in Munich, Germany, June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert
People brave heat to attend the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
People try to cool off on a rocky beach as a heatwave hits Europe, in Sliema, Malta, June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
People enjoy themselves at the beach, as a heatwave hits Spain, in Malaga, southern Spain June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

The WMO said 2019 was on track to be among the world’s hottest years, and that 2015-2019 would then be the hottest five-year period on record.

(Written by Jenni Baxter / SAPeople and Kevin Liffey / Reuters, with reporting by Inti Landauro and Richard Lough in Paris, Emma Pinedo and Paul Day in Madrid, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Catherine Evans/Reuters and Jenni Baxter/SAPeople)