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Europe braces for blistering June weekend heat

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PARIS: Spain, France and other western European nations braced on Saturday for a sweltering June weekend that is set to break records, with forest fires and warnings over the effects of climate change.

The weather on Saturday will represent a peak of a June heatwave that is in line with scientists' predictions that such phenomena will now strike earlier in the year thanks to global warming. Forest fires in Spain on Saturday had burned nearly 20,000 hectares of land in the north-west Sierra de la Culebra region.

The flames forced several hundred people from their homes, and 14 villages were evacuated.

Some residents were able to return on Saturday morning, but regional authorities warned the fire "remains active".

Firefighters were still battling blazes in several other regions, including woodlands in Catalonia. Temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius were forecast in parts of the country on Saturday -- with highs of 43 degrees C expected in the north-eastern city of Zaragoza.

There have also been fires in Germany, where temperatures topped 40 degrees C on Saturday. A blaze in the Brandenburg region around Berlin had spread over about 60 hectares by Friday evening.

Temperatures in France could reach as high as 42 degrees C in some areas on Saturday, French state weather forecaster Meteo France said, adding that June records had already been beaten in 11 areas on Friday.

Farmers in the country are having to adapt. Daniel Toffaloni, a 60-year-old farmer near the southern city of Perpignan, now only works from "daybreak until 11.30 am" and in the evening, as temperatures in his tomato greenhouses reach a sizzling 55 degrees C.

"This is the earliest heatwave ever recorded in France" since 1947, said Matthieu Sorel, a climatologist at Meteo France.

With "many monthly or even all-time temperature records likely to be beaten in several regions," he called the weather a "marker of climate change". Dutch authorities said they expect Saturday to be the hottest day of the year so far.

The Netherlands' national meteorological agency has issued a warning for the southern city of Limburg where temperatures could rise to 35 degrees C. - AFP

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