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VILNIUS: Children play under showers at a public fountain to cool off.—AFP
VILNIUS: Children play under showers at a public fountain to cool off.—AFP

LITHUANIAN temperatures have hit record June highs, meteorologists said on Thursday, as a heatwave forced school closures and threatened to reduce harvests in the draught-hit Baltic region.

Kaisiadorys in central Lithuania was the hottest place at 35.7 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, the highest-ever temperature recorded for June in the country, said weather forecaster Paulius Starkus. Six people drowned in the Baltic EU state on Wednesday, the deadliest day of the year to date, while some schools put classes on hold or cut lessons short due to the heatwave.

Scientists say the extreme weather is in part a result of climate change. “Lithuania used to have heatwaves but now they occur more often and are more intense due to climate change,” said Vilnius University climatologist Donatas Valiukas. Starkus said a downpour with thunder and hail could follow in some areas on Thursday afternoon.

Agriculture Minister Giedrius Surplys told lawmakers that some areas were experiencing “a real climatic draught” threatening harvests, while hydrologists warned that river water levels posed a threat to fish. Demand for air-conditioning has also soared in recent weeks. Lithuania’s hot weather is expected to last through the week, then temperatures may ease below 30 degrees Celsius starting Monday.

Fellow Baltic state Latvia is also experiencing unusual heat for June, with temperatures over 32 degrees Celsius. In recent days, Latvia’s western region of Kurzeme saw thunderstorms with hail damaging buildings, smashing greenhouses and tearing power lines. Two people have been hospitalised in the northern Latvian town of Cesis after a tree fell on their camper van while they were inside.

Another Baltic state Estonia had a heatwave last week and is now experiencing rainy and windy weather. Poland has also been experiencing high temperatures this month, which has resulted in increased air-conditioner use. The power transmission system operator PSE said that on Wednesday there was record electricity demand for a summer morning at nearly 24.10 gigawatts (GW). Forty-two people have already drowned in Poland this month, according to the government security centre RCB.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2019