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Europe swept by blistering and potentially record-breaking temperatures

<i>rvoje Jelavic/PIXSELL/DeFodi Images/Getty Images</i><br/>A major fire broke out in the village of Grebastica in Sibenik
rvoje Jelavic/PIXSELL/DeFodi Images/Getty Images
A major fire broke out in the village of Grebastica in Sibenik

By Laura Paddison, Barbie Latza Nadeau, Sharon Braithwaite and Elinda Labropoulou, CNN

(CNN) — A blistering and deadly heat wave is sweeping Europe, potentially bringing record-breaking temperatures.

Parts of Spain, France, Greece, Croatia and Italy are all facing intense heat, with temperatures rising above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

“Temperatures are sizzling across Europe this week amid an intense and prolonged period of heat. And it’s only just begun,” the European Space Agency (ESA) said in a statement.

Heat is one of the deadliest natural hazards – more than 61,000 people died in Europe’s searing summer heat wave last year. The current heat wave – named “Cerberus” by the Italian Meteorological Society after the three-headed monster that features in Dante’s “Inferno” – has prompted further fears for people’s health, especially as it coincides with one of the busiest periods of Europe’s summer tourist season.

In Italy, temperatures could reach record-breaking levels. Sardinia and Sicily are expected to be close to the current European temperature record of 48.8 degrees Celsius (nearly 120 Fahrenheit), according to the ESA.

On Friday, the Italian Health Ministry issued an “extreme” health risk warning for 15 cities – including Rome and Florence – as the heat wave is set to continue over Saturday and Sunday.

It has already claimed at least one life in Italy, where a 44-year-old road construction worker collapsed in the northern city of Lodi and died in hospital on Tuesday.

In Rome, several tourists have collapsed this week due to heat stroke, with one British tourist passing out in front of the ancient Roman Colosseum on Tuesday.

Alessandro Miani, president of the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine (SIMA), told state broadcaster RAI on Wednesday that Italy “has the sad record of the European country with the highest number of deaths caused by heat waves.”

In Greece, authorities have said temperatures could reach 44 degrees Celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit) on Friday or Saturday.

The Greek Culture Ministry said it will shut the Acropolis in Athens from midday local time until 5 p.m. on Friday due to the heat. Police and emergency services provided assistance to a female tourist in difficulty due to the heat at the Acropolis, the police said in a tweet on Friday.

According to the Greek meteorological service forecast, temperatures will peak at 42 Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) in Athens by midday.

In Croatia, dozens of firefighters were deployed as a large wildfire broke out near Grebastica, a small town near the coastal city of Sbenik, CNN’s affiliate N1 reported.

Nearly 80 firefighters with 28 fire trucks were deployed on Thursday to put out the blaze, with the assistance of three Canadair firefighting planes and two air tractors, N1 reported.

Footage from the scene shows cars and homes in the town destroyed and, according to N1, the area around Grebastica has been left without electricity. Clouds of smoke could be seen above the villages from nearby tourist beaches, Reuters reported Friday.

Temperatures were expected to stay around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) across the region into next week.

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