Paris: France was bracing Monday for the peak of the heatwave gripping the country, with crushing temperatures expected from the Mediterranean as far up as Brittany in the northwest.
Forecasters have put 15 departments across the country on the highest state of alert for extreme temperatures, including Gironde in the southwest where forest fires have already wrought havoc.
In the Landes forest, in the southwest Aquitaine region, temperatures "will be above 42 degrees Celsius" (107 Fahrenheit) said forecaster Olivier Proust.
And Brittany, which until recently has escaped the worst of the heat, could register temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius, (104 Fahrenheit), say experts, which would be a record for the region.
The increasing number of extreme weather events is the direct consequence of global warming, as greenhouse gases increase their intensity, length and frequency, say scientists.
The intense heatwave has already caused multiple forest fires in France and elsewhere, and some farmers have taken to working at night to minimise the risk of a spark from their harvesting equipment starting a fire that destroys their crops.
By late Sunday, the fires in Gironde, which have been raging since Tuesday, had already destroyed 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres), driven by high winds and forcing the evacuation of 16,200 holidaymakers, fire service officials said.
'Red alert' heat warnings
The blaze at the Teste-de-Buch forest in southwestern France has arrived at the beach and was moving south, said the local prefecture. Video shot by people at the scene showed the massive fire consuming the beach at La Lagune, near the famous the Dune of Pilat - Europe's tallest sand dune.
France's interior ministry announced it was sending three more firefighting aircraft to reinforce the six already operating in the region as well as 200 more firefighters and more equipment.
But the crews fighting the blaze will have to contend with soaring temperatures Monday. It is one of the regions on a "red alert" heatwave warning.
"In certain zones in the southwest, it will be an apocalypse of heat," forecaster Francois Gourand of Meteo-France told AFP.
Temperatures across France are expected to be over 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) but between 38 and 40 degrees in the western half of the country.
Officials in several regions meanwhile, have also issued pollution alerts because of the high concentrations of ozone.
The heatwave is gripping much of western Europe, with high temperatures and forest fires in Spain and Portugal.
Britain's Met Office has issued a first-ever "red" warning for extreme heat, cautioning there is a "risk to life" and attributing the heatwave to man-made climate change.