Record heatwave forecast in Spain, Portugal - 50 degrees

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Temperatures in Spain and Portugal soared to near record highs on Friday as part of Europe's heatwave and governments put emergency services on alert for forest fires.

And in Evora, Sky's Katie Spencer reported from an unusually quiet town square as locals and tourists alike heeded advice and avoided the midday sun as temperatures climbed to within touching distance of those experienced in one of the hottest places on Earth - Death Valley in California.

Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said the mercury is likely to reach the high 20s and low 30s again, adding that despite the more comfortable temperatures in recent days "it is not the end of the hot weather for the summer".

In addition to the heat, the wildfire danger will be extremely high in Spain and Portugal, as well as southern France, during the next few days.

The heat has already claimed the lives of three people over the past week. They were a 48-year-old man working on road works and a 78-year-old man who was working on his allotment, Cadena Ser said.

On Friday, a middle-aged man in Barcelona also died as a result of heatstroke after being taken to hospital in critical condition.

The extreme heat is also igniting risky wildfires in Portugal.

In Vienna, police dogs due to patrol a beach volleyball tournament were fitted with special shoes.

In the country, the temperature reached 31.2ºC on Wednesday.

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In the Netherlands, authorities closed certain sections of highways where the heat had melted the asphalt.

The central city of Zwolle, meanwhile, started cutting the branches of some 100 poplar trees.

Italy has also issued red alerts across its centre and north, which includes the tourist hotspots of Rome, Florence and Venice.

In southern Portugal, the town of Evora was nearly at a standstill yesterday as only a few foreign tourists dared to venture out to take photographs of the Roman ruins near Diana's Temple.

Since Thursday, four French nuclear reactors in three power plants near the Rhine and the Rhone Rivers, including Fessenheim, have had to be temporarily shut down.

The torrid weather has been felt across Europe, as far north as Sweden and Britain, whose weather service said July was the country's third-warmest month in more than a century.

By late morning, 670km of traffic jams had been reported, according to France's traffic authorities, as the heat pounded down on the asphalt.

But as the weekend approaches, thermometers are forecast to exceed 30C in parts of southern England as high pressure takes charge, locking in the hot weather. More than 60 per cent of the country registered temperatures of over 40 C (104 F).