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Europe battles heatwave and fires, record temperatures scorch China


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ROME/BEIJING, July 19 (Reuters) – Italy put 23 cities on red alert as temperatures could reach 46 Celsius (114 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, one of the global hotspots as a wave of extreme heat, wildfires and flooding wreak havoc from the United States to China.

An intensifying heatwave has hit southern Europe during the peak summer tourist season, breaking records including in Rome and bringing warnings about an increased risk of deaths and heart attacks.

Wildfires burned for a third day west of the Greek capital Athens, with air water bombers resuming operations at first light and firefighters working throughout the night to keep flames away from coastal refineries.

Fanned by erratic winds, the fires have gutted dozens of homes, prompted hundreds of people to flee and blanketed the area in thick smoke. Temperatures could climb to 43C on Thursday, forecasters said.

In China, which this week was hosting U.S. climate envoy John Kerry for talks, tourists defied the heat to visit a giant thermometer showing surface temperatures of 80C.

In Beijing, which set a new record as temperatures remained above 35C for the 28th day in a row, Kerry expressed hope that cooperation to combat global warming could redefine troubled ties between the two superpowers.

A global pattern of heatwaves that have scorched parts of Europe, Asia and the United States this week have thrown that challenge into sharp relief.

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