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Europe swelters: Paris is hotter than Tampa

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 16, 2003

PARIS - Rome is considering water rationing. London will reward anyone who invents an air conditioning system for the sweltering Tube. In Paris, the fountains have become wading pools.

Summertime has arrived with a vengeance in Europe, forcing dehydrated tourists to run for cover as officials from England to Romania scramble to limit the damage from drought and heat.

In Paris, where the mercury rose to 93 degrees Tuesday (the high at Tampa International Airport was only 88), water vendors were out in force, ice cream parlors did brisk business and weary tourists took refuge just about every place they could.

Many, like American visitor Amanda Movahhed, sought to beat the heat by dipping their feet into a fountain outside the Louvre Museum.

"L.A.'s hot - but never uncomfortable like this," said Movahhed, a recent graduate from the University of California at Los Angeles. "It's kind of tough on us tourists."

The higher temperatures had a silver lining for some parts of Europe. Places like England, Berlin and some Baltic countries were basking in uncommonly balmy conditions more reminiscent of summer in the Mediterranean.

The Belgian daily De Morgen ran a front-page photo Tuesday of a man in a bathing suit sunning himself in the town of Oostende under the headline: "Belgium is becoming a tropical paradise."

Relief was forecast for some places.

Thunderstorms swept across western France late Tuesday, causing at least one death and an unknown number of injuries, fire officials said. Southwest England was to have heavy rains today.

But scorching temperatures in Italy prompted authorities Tuesday to discuss whether to declare a state of emergency in the country's north because of a weekslong drought.

Rome officials spoke about rationing water in dozens of the capital's districts, and Italian newspapers warned that fruit and vegetable prices could rise by 30 percent because output from parched fields was shrinking.

Meteorologists in Italy predicted the searing temperatures and lack of rain in the country's battered north would continue into August. Some experts blamed global warming.

Levels in some of Europe's leading rivers were dropping. German officials said the Rhine was at five-year lows, and ships along the Danube faced the risk of running aground in Romania.

In Austria, farming groups warned that drought is likely to cut this summer's harvest of various crops - such as grains, peas and corn - in many places down to about 60 percent of normal levels.

As London reached the high 80s, Mayor Ken Livingstone on Tuesday offered a $161,000 reward to anyone who can invent an air-conditioning system for the London Underground's deepest lines.

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