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Visitors fill their water bottles from a public fountain during a heatwave in Seville, Spain. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Madrid: Spain’s earliest heatwave in over 40 years dragged on Wednesday for a fifth day, with temperatures expected to top 40 degrees Celsius in parts of the country as the mass of hot air pushed into France.

Almost all of Spain was affected, with nine of the country’s 17 regions on orange alert, the second highest level possible, Spain’s meteorological agency AEMET said.

Temperatures were set to hit 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in Badajoz in the southwest, 40 in Seville in the south and 39 in Madrid, sizzling conditions more common in mid-summer than the first half of June.

The heatwave has produced temperatures between 7°C and 12°C higher than the average for this time of the year since it started on Saturday, said AEMET spokesman Ruben del Campo.

“This is a very unusual situation. These temperatures are not normal in mid-June,” he added.

Scientists say heat waves have become more likely due to climate change. As global temperatures rise over time, heat waves are predicted to become more frequent and intense and last longer, and their impacts more widespread.

A carriage driver sprays his horse with water to keep it cool during a heat wave in Seville, Spain. Image Credit: Bloomberg

The authorities urged residents to drink plenty of water, reduce physical activity and stay in cool places as much as possible.

The head of the regional government of Andalusia, in the hard-hit south, said the scorching temperatures were a sign that “climate change is an absolute reality”.

“In Andalusia, the effects are very rough,” he added.

Temperatures are expected to ease over the weekend. The extreme weather, which arrived on a wave of hot air from north Africa, is headed for southwest France.

National forecaster Meteo France has warned temperatures could peak above 40C in the south-west between Thursday and Saturday, with the entire country set to experience a hotter-than-usual spell.

Spain also grappled with a heatwave at the end of May, with temperatures up to 15C above the seasonal average.

Last month was Spain’s hottest May since the beginning of the century.

Extreme stress on birds

The heatwave is also causing extreme stress to the country’s birds and leading baby birds, nesting in buildings, to fall out of their nests as they try to escape the high temperatures.

A team at a bird recovery centre in Madrid is treating scores of dehydrated and undernourished baby swifts that fell from their nests in building facades or roof cavities, after they tried to leave before they could properly fly.

“Birds are suffering especially in this very early heat wave in June that we are having in Spain,” David Howell, climate and energy adviser at SEO Birdlife told Reuters.

“They suffer especially from heat stress and thirst and even in some cases they have to leave the nest to try to find cooler temperatures. For that reason during this period many chicks and nesting fledglings are (found) on the ground, just because they are trying to escape the excess heat.” The heatwave, which has coincided with the hatching season, is expected to last until the end of the week, with temperatures surpassing 40 Celsius (104 F) in many parts of Spain. Night temperatures are also unusually high at between 20 C and 25 C.

At Brinzal bird centre in Madrid’s vast Casa de Campo country park, employees are hand rearing birds until they are able to fly. Then they are set free, coordinator Patricia Orejas told Reuters.

Every day in the first two weeks of June the average daily temperature in peninsular Spain was above normal. On Tuesday, the temperature was almost 8 C above normal, according to state meteorological agency AEMET.