The Latest: UK air traffic problems fixed ‘sufficiently’

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Tourists hold umbrellas to shelter from the sun as they walk past the Colosseum, in Rome, Friday, July 26, 2019. Europe’s heatwave continues to wreak havoc across the continent, with a woman dying in Belgium and wide-spread travel disruptions in France and Britain. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on Europe’s heat wave (all times local):

6:10 p.m.

The U.K.’s air traffic controller says it has fixed a technical issue that led to flight restrictions at the country’s airspace.

The controller, NATS, says the problem has been fixed “sufficiently” at its Swanwick control center and will be able to safely increase traffic flow rates. The controller promised an improving picture through the rest of the day.

Travelers at both Heathrow and Gatwick airports experienced delays, due in part to thunderstorms that followed the hottest July day in the U.K. on record.

NATS said the “weather is continuing to cause significant unrelated disruption across the country and more widely across Europe, which has further complicated today’s operation.”

Thursday may end up being the hottest day ever recorded in the U.K. Britain’s weather service says provisional temperature of 38.7 Celsius (101.7 Fahrenheit) was recorded during this week’s heat wave — but it still needs to be confirmed.

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6:05 p.m.

Tourists in Rome, where afternoon temperatures hit 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), have been enjoying free bottles of water handed out near the Colosseum.

Volunteers on Friday distributed the bottles to sweltering visitors near the ancient arena and Roman Forum.

At the Pantheon, tourists dipped their hands in the fountain and sat at outdoor cafes with special fans that sprayed water.

Rome bans people from frolicking in its monumental fountains in a bid to discourage vandalism.

While uncomfortable, the Italian capital’s heat isn’t exceptional for mid-summer. Temperatures are forecast to be a few degrees lower on Saturday.

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5:45 p.m.

Hailstorms pounding France the day after record-breaking heat have forced an extraordinary halt to the Tour de France.

Organizers stopped the world’s premier cycling event for the safety of riders on Friday when the sudden storm made the route through the Alps too dangerous.

The racers were flying through hairpin bends down from the Tour’s highest peak, the Col d’Iseran, when the decision was announced. TV coverage showed a snowplow desperately trying to clear the road the races were heading toward, which was awash with streams of water and ice.

Halting the three-week race is an exceptional move. The Tour continued throughout this week’s heat wave, and cyclists usually shrug off rough weather.

It came on a high-drama day for the Tour, in which race leader Julian Alaphilippe lost his top spot and accompanying yellow jersey just ahead of Sunday’s finale.

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5:30 p.m.

French emergency officials say fires devastated some 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) of forests, farm fields and other land on Thursday during a heat wave.

National emergency service spokesman Col. Michael Bernier said more than 4,000 firefighters worked to extinguish the blazes that broke out Thursday, when temperatures reached as high as high as 43.6 C (110.5 F) near Paris.

The national fire service said several firefighters were injured, and linked the fires to the heat wave that engulfed much of Europe this week.

Gregory Allione of the national firefighter federation called for continued fire vigilance even as temperatures declined Friday. He blamed the “remarkable intensity” of the fires on climate change and the resulting rise in extreme weather.

Authorities in the northern French region of Oise banned harvest activity Friday because of fire risk.

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4:55 p.m.

Britain’s weather service says a provisional temperature of 38.7 degrees Celsius (101.7degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded Thursday, which if confirmed would be the highest ever recorded in the U.K. The Met Office says the temperature was recorded at Cambridge University Botanic Garden in eastern England.

It says “quality control and analysis over the next few days” will determine whether the reading becomes official.

The existing record for the U.K. is 38.5 Celsius (101.3 Fahrenheit), was set in August 2003.

Temperature records have fallen across Europe this week as a suffocating heat wave swept up from the Sahara.

Britain was back to rain and lower temperatures on Friday.

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2:25 p.m.

People hoping to catch some sleep and maybe a cooling sea breeze during Europe’s heat wave got a rude awakening in a Dutch seaside suburb.

Police in The Hague said Friday that they handed out 140-euro ($155) fines overnight to 13 people sleeping on the beach and cafe terraces in Scheveningen.

Police say some of the sleepers were napping in the sand and getting in the way of local authority workers trying to clean up the beach before another sweltering day Friday.

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2 p.m.

The U.N. weather agency is voicing “concern” that the hot air which produced a record-breaking heat wave across much of western Europe this week is headed toward Greenland and that it could lead to increased melting of ice.

Heat records in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany tumbled in recent days as hot air surged from North Africa and Spain.

World Meteorological Organization spokeswoman Clare Nullis said in Geneva that forecasts suggest the air is heading towards Greenland.

This, she said, “will result in high temperatures and consequently enhanced melting of the Greenland ice sheet.”

Nullis said ice has been melting at high levels over the last few weeks in Greenland.

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12:50 p.m.

Travelers are facing a second day of disruption in Britain after record breaking July temperatures gave way to thunderstorms.

Network Rail, which oversees the majority of Britain’s railway network, is advising commuters to “only travel if their journey is absolutely necessary,” after Thursday’s disturbances left trains in haphazard locations and a fire damaged networks in the north.

The Met office says the mercury reached 38.1 C (100.6 F) in Cambridge on Thursday, only the second time temperatures over 100 F have ever been recorded in the UK.

The heat eased Friday, but Heathrow, Europe’s biggest airport, was forced to cancel or delay flights amid severe weather conditions. The airport admits they don’t know how many flights have been affected.

British Airways also announced that “severe thunderstorms are causing significant delays and cancellations to our operation in and out of London.”

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11:45 a.m.

Belgium suffered a first death as a direct result of the record-breaking heat wave when a woman was found dead near her caravan close to the beach.

The 66-year-old woman was found by a neighbor late Thursday afternoon after she had apparently been basking in the blazing sun. The incident happened in Middelkerke on the Belgian coast as temperatures rose in the region to over 40 degrees Celsius.

Middelkerke police commissioner Frank Delva told The Associated Press that the death is “very clearly linked to the heat.”

Emergency services rushed to the scene but could not resuscitate the woman.

On Thursday, Belgium endured, like many parts of Western Europe, its hottest day on record when the temperature rose to 41.8 C in Begijnendijk, 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Brussels.

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