The heatwave that began earlier in the week intensified on Friday, bringing temperatures from London to Madrid to new highs, according to national weather services.
The record-setting hot weather is in line with warnings from scientists that heatwaves will be more intense and hit earlier than usual as a result of climate change.
Firefighters battled fires in several regions of Spain, including the northwest Sierra de la Culebra where about 200 people fled their homes as forest fires burned up to 7,000 hectares (17,297 acres) of land. More than 3,000 people were evacuated from the Puy du Fou theme park in central Spain due to a fierce fire nearby.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez praised firefighters on Friday “who risk their lives on the front line of fires” as temperatures hit more than 35C in most parts of the country and were expected to reach 40C in some areas.
In France, temperatures also climbed with more than half of all French departments at the highest or second-highest heat alert level by Friday afternoon.
Schoolchildren were told to stay home in departments at alert level “red” and the health ministry activated a special heatwave hotline.
Much of the country’s southwest was expected to hit 40C, prompting warnings for the vulnerable.
With “many monthly or even all-time temperature records likely to be beaten in several regions”, he called the unseasonable weather a “marker of climate change”.