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Red alerts for Portugal, Spain amid smothering heat wave

  • People cool off at an urban beach Friday at Madrid Rio park in Madrid. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

BARCELONA, Spain — Residents and tourists in Portugal and Spain stayed in the shade or flocked to the beach Saturday as southern Europe sweltered in a heat wave that has produced near-record temperatures and threatens to stick around for days to come.

The extremely high temperatures, caused by an influx of hot air from Africa, were also carrying loads of dust from the Sahara Desert.

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Portugal issued red health alerts for extreme heat for more than half the country on Saturday, with thermometers approaching 114.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The country’s highest ever recorded temperature was 117.3 F in 2003.

Spain also issued warnings of extreme heat for its southern areas, with temperatures expected to reach 113 F in the cities of Seville, Huelva, Badajoz and Cordoba. Spain’s all-time record of 116.42 F was set in Cordoba in July 2017.

In southern Portugal, the town of Evora was almost at a standstill Saturday as only a few foreign tourists dared to venture out to take photographs of the Roman ruins called Diana’s Temple.

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“Oh it’s terrible,” said tourist Paul Snell. “We’re from Canada and never felt heat like this before. We’re just drenched with water. Yeah, I need to hydrate constantly.”

Francisca Serrano, a souvenir seller, added “we are used to high temperatures, but it seems the air doesn’t flow and that makes it difficult to breathe.”