With temperatures pushing 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), the UN warned heatwaves through Europe on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. This warning brought blackouts to France and fears of heat stroke for Wimbledon tennis fans, but meant a range of interesting ice creams for the continent's zoo animals. The UN also warned heatwaves were growing more frequent and intense due to climate change, and called on more countries to put warning systems in place to inform people of the dangers.
At the Safaripark Beekse Bergen zoo in the Netherlands, zoo staff had already put their emergency procedures in place, including ice cubes for baboons, cold showers for the elephants, and special meat- and fruit-flavored ice cream for the ring-tailed lemurs. Italy's main zoo in Rome also offered Gelato to its orangutans with a choice of flavors including fresh fruit and vegetables, or dried figs topped with eggs and insects.
People were having a tougher time, with around a million homes in western France left without power overnight on Tuesday after the heatwave moved in from Spain. Another blackout struck Brittany Wednesday morning, cutting electricity to 100,000 houses.
The Wimbledon tennis tournament in London saw the hottest day of game ever at 35.7 degrees Celsius, more than a degree hotter than the record set in 1976. A ball boy collapsed and hot weather rules meant women players got a 10-minute break between the second and final sets.
Elsewhere in the city, public fountains became impromptu beaches, where parents were seen sunbathing on benches and children playing in the water in their swimming costumes behind King's Cross station.
Meanwhile in Brussels, it was hard to tell whether European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was sweating from the pressure of the Greece economy crisis or just the ambient temperature. Juncker joked with photographers at a press conference, "Every time I scratch myself, wipe my brow, you take a photo. Now I know what to do to end up in tomorrow's papers!"
The heat carries serious dangers, particularly to the elderly, sick and very young because their bodies' heat regulation system can be impaired, leading to heatstroke. Young children produce more metabolic heat, have a decreased ability to sweat and have core temperatures that rise faster during dehydration.
The Muslim Council of Britain warned people fasting for Ramadan to take extra care, and said Islamic law allowed the sick and vulnerable to break the daytime fast during extreme conditions.
France and Belgium have introduced heatwave warning systems after the deadly 2003 heatwave. The UN called for such systems that would highlight the health hazards and inform people what they should do to protect themselves from heat.