How many people died in 2003 heatwave? Number of deaths recorded in Europe - and how hot were temperatures

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The 2003 heatwave was thought to be the warmest for up to 500 years

Tens of thousands of people died when an extreme heatwave hit Europe in 2003.

Temperatures were highest in August of that year as it passed 45C in parts of Spain.

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The period of extreme heat was at the time the hottest summer on record in Europe since at least 1540.

It resulted in tens of thousands of deaths across the continet.

How many people died in the UK?

It is estimated that more than 2,000 people died in the United Kingdon in August 2003 due to the heatwave.

The figure was announced in October 2003, two months later.

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Temperatures hit 38.5C in Faversham, Kent, which was the highest recorded in the country at the time.

It caused the tarmac to melt on part of the M25 between Junctions 26 and 27, with rail tracks also buckling in the heat.

A woman cools off in a fountain in Sevilla. (Photo credit should read CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images)A woman cools off in a fountain in Sevilla. (Photo credit should read CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman cools off in a fountain in Sevilla. (Photo credit should read CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

How many people died in Europe?

The Met Office says that more than 20,000 people died during the record-breaking heatwave in Europe in 2003.

However peer-revied analysis put the figure much higher at 70,000.

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The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction estimated that the heatwave resulted in 72,000 deaths.

France was hit particularly badly with 14,802 heat related deaths.

Spain is estimated to have had an excesses deaths of 12,963 during the 2003 heatwave.

In Portugal, the weather caused an estimated 1,953 excess deaths.

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Around 1,500 people died in Netherlands during the heatwave, approximately 300 died in Germany and there were 546 deaths in Italy.

The heat-related deaths were mostly among the elderly.

How hot did temperatures get?

The record-breaking heatwave saw temperatures soar past 40C across the continent.

In the UK the highest temperature recorded was 38.5C in Kent, which became the hottest day on record until it was surpassed in 2019.

France saw eight consecutive days of over 40C temperatures in the northern city of Auxerre, Yonne.

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The hottest temperature recorded in the month was 41.1C, with 40C temperatures also recorded in Bordeaux, Tolouse, Biarritz, Lyon and Nimes.

In Portugal temperatures hit 48C in Amarelaja, one of the hottest cities in Europe, with 1 August 2003 being the hottest day in centuries, as temperatures remained above 30C even at night.

Jerez had the highest temperature in Spain with 45.1C.

In Scotland a record-breaking temperature of 32.9C was recorded in the village of Greycrook.

What were the results of the heatwave?

Due to the heatwave, the River Danube in Serbia fell to its lowest level in 100 years.

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In Portugal an area the size of Luxemberg - 215,000 hectares - of forest was lost to fires.

Extreme snow and glacier-melt in the European Alps led to increased rock and ice falls in the mountains.

Following the heatwave, a joint Met Office/Department of Health project called the Heat-Health Watch was launched.

It gives advanced warning of UK hot weather and it operates every summer from 1 June to 15 September.

The French government has made efforts to improve its prevention, surveillance and alert system for people such as the elderly living alone.

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