THE Met Office has issued its first ever extreme heat warning as Britain continues to swelter in a scorching 33C heatwave.
The new weather warning level is in place until Thursday night when conditions take a cooler turn, sweeping in thunderstorms and heavy rain.
The warning covers a large part of Wales, all of south-west England and parts of southern and central England,
It comes after temperature records were set over the weekend, when a tropical blast from the Atlantic thrust the UK into the furnace with the mercury shooting up to a sizzling 32C.
And the “Bermuda blowtorch” heatwave shows no sign of stopping yet.
Monday kicked the four-day heatwave off with 30C in the likes of London, with many areas warmer than Ibiza, and some places even seeing conditions hotter than 29C Nouakchott, Mauritania, on the edge of the Sahara Desert.
And today and Wednesday could be even hotter, with The Weather Outlook forecasting a potential 33C in the Midlands and on Welsh borders.
The Met Office is working with Public Health England to ensure that people stay safe in the hot conditions, urging the public to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen and assist anyone who is more vulnerable to the heat.
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Met Office Chief Operational Meteorologist Steven Ramsdale said: “The high temperatures are going to continue through a large part of this week.
“Many areas will continue to reach heatwave thresholds but the amber extreme heat warning focusses on western areas where the most unusually high temperatures are likely to persist.”
The heat health warning is in place until 11.59pm on Thursday, telling hospitals to expect to be busier than usual and compelling health staff to make daily contact with the ill, vulnerable and elderly.
The concept was introduced on June 1 to highlight the dangers heatwaves pose on health, infrastructure and other services.
Killer heatwave fears were fanned after Public Health England figures showed 2,256 excess UK deaths were recorded during heatwaves in 2020 – the highest since records began.
Experts have warned roads melt at 33C, which could spark chaos for drivers.
And the heat is proving to be too much for the country’s trains, with scores of passengers delayed.
Some train speeds have been halved due to the risk of lines buckling in the heat.
London Northwestern cut speeds on its main line from London Euston, with Chiltern Railways also affected on the London Marylebone to Oxford line, and Northern Rail hit between Hull and Bridlington, East Yorks.
Network Rail said: “Rails expand as they get hotter. Speed restrictions mean lower forces on tracks, reducing the chance of buckling.”
And the heatwave could cause planes to veer outside approved airspaces amid GPS malfunctions.
UK Civil Aviation Authority said: “It is possible for tablets and mobile phones to overheat and shut down in hot weather.
“We have recently seen an increase in airspace infringements caused by overheating devices being used as moving maps in GA aircraft.”
This week’s climbing temperatures could mean Britain thrashing the weekend’s record-breaking temperatures when it was even warmer than the Bahamas and Tenerife.
Both England and Wales recorded the hottest day of the year on Sunday, beating records set on Saturday.
A top temperature of 31.6C was recorded at London’s Heathrow on Sunday, overtaking Saturday’s scorching 30.3C in Coton in the Elms, Derbyshire.
Meanwhile, Wales saw 30.2C in Cardiff, compared with 29.6C reached in Usk, Monmouthshire, on Saturday.
Saturday had marked the hottest day of the year for all four nations, and the hottest day since records began for Northern Ireland with 31.2C recorded in Ballywatticock, in Co Down, beating the previous highest temperature of 30.8C, which was reached on July 12, 1983, and June 30, 1976.
Met Office meteorologist Becky Mitchell said: “We could get up to 32C this week, it is possible each day for different places in the country.
“The most likely areas to get 32C are parts of the Midlands and down towards south-west England and potentially London, they are all going to see the highest temperatures in the coming days.”
But people have been warned to make the most of the heatwave as a deluge of rain and thunderstorms is forecast for later this week.
The long range forecast for the weekend suggests spells of rain or showers are likely for many areas, with temperatures easing back closer to normal.
There could even be a few scattered showers as early as this afternoon, with “a risk of isolated thundery showers” after lunch on Tuesday.
More showers are expected on Wednesday and Thursday, with the real “change” in conditions coming on Friday.
A Met Office forecaster said: “The heat could spark a few afternoon showers, these heavy and perhaps thundery.”
Jim Dale, meteorologist for British Weather Services, said: “From about mid-week it looks like the high pressure will give way and as is usual after periods of very hot weather we could see something livelier in the way of downpours.”
And Brian Gaze from The Weather Outlook said: “The fine weather probably continues in most of the UK on Thursday.
“Scattered showers continue to be a risk, but long sunny periods mean temperatures once again could exceed 30C.
“During the rest of the week the risk of thundery showers increases.
“Later on downpours or longer spells of rain could become more widespread and it probably turns cooler.”
Bookies have slashed the odds on UK temperatures reaching a whopping 35C this week.
As the heatwave continues, Ladbrokes has cut the odds to just 3/1 that the thermometer hits 35C anywhere in the UK before the end of the week.
Jessica O’Reilly of Ladbrokes said: “Freedom Day coupled with the heatwave is sure to see plenty of workers pulling sickies this week, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see temperatures surpass 35C.”
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