While parts of northern Europe are devastated by record flooding caused by torrential rains, countries in Central Europe suffocate under the highest temperatures recorded in many years. The situation is compounded by the outbreak of wild fires in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro. Hundreds of forest fires are burning in Greece and fire is threatening the second-largest city in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bitola. Wheat, soja and vegetable crops in Serbia are scorched from the heat.
Some 30 people have died from the heat this summer in Romania, at least 18 of them in the past week, as temperatures soared to over 40°C, prompting the authorities to put many emergency services on red alert. This brings the total number of deaths from the heat this summer in Romania to more than 30. On Monday 23 July, Bulgaria recorded temperatures of 45°C, the hottest ever since records were kept and 43.3°C was recorded in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.
Working in close cooperation with local authorities, Red Cross teams across the region have been mobilized to distribute bottled water and provide emergency first aid and other health services, especially for particularly vulnerable people such as the elderly. They are also distributing vital information to the public about how to protect oneself from the heat.
Romanian Red Cross volunteers are busy distributing bottles of water to people in the counties most affected by the soaring temperatures – more than 45,000 litres have been distributed so far. Working in cooperation with the local city halls and prefects, they are also paying special attention to the needs of people affected by the severe flooding that hit Romania last April, and who are still living in tents. The Red Cross has set up primary health care facilities in locations made available by the authorities and in several air-conditioned retail stores in Bucharest. Romanian Red Cross volunteers are distributing water, measuring blood pressure and providing screening services to people.
In Hungary, the authorities have reported hundreds of casualties from the heat. In response to the situation, and working in close cooperation with the governmnet, the Hungarian Red Cross has mobilized nearly 200 staff and volunteers to distribute water to people at 30 locations in the center of the capitals of 11 counties across the country. The Hungarian Red Cross, together with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, is also operating a website with a focus on safe sunbathing (www.napsugarzas.hu). A special alert was placed on the home page and the visitor can also find useful information on the water distribution points in cities as well as information about how to protect oneself from the heat and sun. The Hungarian Red Cross also started a first aid pilot project around Lake Balaton. First Aid teams, located on 24 beaches around the lake, are dealing with an increasing number of cases of heat stroke.
Many people affected by the heat are seeking medical help in Bulgaria and in response, the Red Cross is not only distributing water, but also providing first aid, including blood pressure check-ups in all its 28 branches. Bulgarian Red Cross teams have been positioned in public locations to provide water and medical assistance.
The Macedonian Red Cross has mobilized its first aid and Red Cross youth teams in 29 districts most affected by the heat, including Skopje. The three-person teams are strategically positioned at bus stations, in market places and shopping centres, where they are distributing water, providing first aid and information to people on how to avoid heat strokes.
Croatian Red Cross volunteers have taken to the roads and highways to distribute bottled water to thousands of motorists stuck in long queues of vehicles under the burning sun, on their way to holiday resorts on the Adriatic coast. The Croatian Red Cross has made available 100,000 bottles of water which are being distributed at critical locations such as entrances to tunnels and highway exit ramps.
Montenegro Red Cross first aid and disaster response teams are working on the beaches, warning people about the dangers of the sun and heat, and providing first aid when necessary. Other teams are on standby and are working with the authorities on the emergency commission set up to monitor the wild fires, which have already killed one person in the country.
All teams remain on high alert, as weather forecasts are predicting more heat in the coming days.