Heat wave blamed for 35 deaths

BUCHAREST, Romania - Southern Europe sizzled under a heat wave Tuesday, with temperatures hitting triple digits for a seventh day in Romania, blazes forcing the evacuation of tourists in Croatia and Italy, and wildfires in Macedonia and Greece exploding shells from long-ago wars. At least 35 heat-related deaths were reported.

Romanian authorities warned residents to stay indoors during the midday heat in the capital of Bucharest, one of five counties put on high alert because of the weather.

At least 27 people have died in Romania since last week, with 12 deaths reported Monday, said Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu. The victims, all over 70, collapsed in the street and had not taken precautions, such as wearing a hat, he said.

Some 870 people collapsed Monday from the heat and nearly 19,000 people contacted emergency services, Nicolaescu added.

As temperatures in Bucharest hit 105 on Tuesday, heavy use of air conditioning caused power outages in the city, and Finance Minister Varujan Vosganian said energy consumption had surged by more than 50 percent.

State institutions were closed in midmorning and operating into the evening to lessen the need for air conditioning. Employers provided free water and cut work schedules.

Temperatures are set to hover around 104 in the south and east today but will drop Thursday, forecasters said.

Dozens of fires raged in central and southern Italy, destroying hundreds of acres of forest, amid high temperatures and winds.

Two charred bodies were found in a burned car in Puglia, while two other people were suffocated by smoke on a nearby beach, the ANSA news agency said.

A firefighting plane crashed in Italy's central Abruzzo region Monday, killing the pilot and seriously injuring a crew member.

Fires forced the rescue of about 250 beach-goers by boat on the Gargano peninsula, above the heel of the Italian boot, where temperatures hit 107 degrees, ANSA said.

Firefighters put out a blaze on the Amalfi coast, while in Castel Gandolfo - where the pope has a vacation home he usually visits in August - 247 acres of forest burned and two hotels were evacuated, news reports said. Other fires were reported in the region that includes Naples, Sardinia and central Italy.

In Croatia, authorities evacuated 1,400 residents and tourists from the southern island of Solta.

Long-buried ordnance from wars past posed another, unexpected threat in fires sparked by the hot, dry weather.

In Macedonia, wildfires exploded some World War I shells, said Kostadin Popovski, head of an army mine division. Southern Macedonia was the scene of heavy fighting in the war, during a drive by Allied forces in 1916 to support Serbia.

'A lot of this ordnance could be set off by the high temperatures and there is a risk for large explosions,' said Kostadin Popovski, head of an army mine division. 'We have already had several explosions.'

Fires raged near Macedonia's second-largest city, Bitola, killing one man. Rescuers saved 20 people from burning homes.