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LONDON: A fierce heatwave in western Europe on Monday left much of the continent wilting under a scorching sun, smashing temperature records and feeding ferocious forest wildfires.

In Britain, the 38.1 Celsius (100.9 Fahrenheit) in Suffolk, eastern England, made it the hottest day of the year and the third-hottest day on record.

Expectations are now high that the current British record of 38.7C could be broken and 40C breached for the first time, with experts blaming climate change and predicting more frequent extreme weather to come.

Across the Channel in France, a host of towns and cities recorded their highest-ever temperatures on Monday, the national weather office said.

The mercury hit 39.3C in Brest on the Atlantic coast in the far northwest of the country, smashing a previous record of 35.1C from 2002.

Saint-Brieuc, on the Channel coast, hit 39.5C beating a previous record of 38.1C, and the western city of Nantes recorded 42C, beating a decades-old high of 40.3C, set in 1949.

Firefighters in France’s southwest were still struggling to contain two massive fires that have caused widespread destruction.

Wildfires rage in France and Spain as heatwaves sear Europe

For six days, armies of firefighters and a fleet of waterbombing aircraft have battled against blazes that have mobilised much of France’s firefighting capacity.

Forecasters put 15 French departments on the highest state of alert for extreme temperatures Monday, including in the northwest Brittany region, where the Atlantic port of Brest hit 39.3C Monday — another record.

Ireland saw temperatures of 33C in Dublin — the highest since 1887 — while in the Netherlands, temperatures reached 35.4C in the southern city of Westdorpe. While that was not a record, higher temperature are expected there on Tuesday.

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