‘Difficult to breathe’ Sicilian tells of ‘unbearable’ 48.8C record-breaking heatwave

BBC Weather: Europe forecast continued heatwave conditions

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The Mediterranean has been hit by a Mercury-busting heatwave. Temperatures in Italy have reached up to 48.8C on the island of Sicily.

This exceeds the previous continental record – 48C – that was set in Athens in 1977.

Italy’s boot is just one area in the south of Europe now experiencing record-breaking levels of heat.

But BBC Newsnight spoke to one man in Sicily about the effects the heatwave is having on the almost five million people living on the island.

Fabio Basile, who moved from Sicily to the UK 18 years ago, said the heat had become “unbearable”.

He told Kirsty Wark: “It’s really difficult to breathe, so even going outside, there’s a sort of warm wind – almost like a siroc of wind – and it makes it really really hard to breathe.

“It’s been really extreme.”

When asked if Sicilians had been given much advice from authorities, the adopted Mancunian said: “Not at the moment, only for the elderly to stay inside and cool down.

“We can only rely on the air con system that we have in some of the homes.

“Luckily, where I live we have air-con.

“Clearly, it’s not the best solution for the planet.”

Basile went on to stress that the temperatures are so hot in Italy that his air conditioning is on for the entire day.

He added: “You cannot live without it.

“Even fans are just not enough to cool down the room.”

On Wednesday, the scorching heat set off wildfires across Sicily and Calabria.

Over 12 hours, firefighters in the two southern Italian regions were tasked with completing 300 operations.

But the Sicilian-born interviewee also suggested there has been a noticeable change in weather conditions on the island since he left 18 years beforehand.

“I do remember how different it was in the past years, to be honest,” he said.

“This year alone we have seen a massive rise in temperature starting from around June, which is kind of unusual.

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“They usually start around July [or] August.”

Following Kirsty Wark’s interview with Basile, the veteran BBC host spoke to meteorologist Scott Duncan.

The fellow Scot explained how heatwaves had appeared across the northern hemisphere, stretching from Canada to Turkey.

But in regards to the Italian island, Duncan said: “Sicily is quite an interesting place.

“We’ve got an extreme weather event but the fingerprints of climate change are all over these records as they seem to break.”

The meteorologist also warned it “could be” that wildfires become a standard part of summertime in southern Europe.

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