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UK Heatwave: Tuesday will not only go down in history as the hottest day the country has ever experienced, but also for shaking up daily routines to devote all energy towards keeping cool.

London: 

It was forecast since last week, when the Meteorological (Met) Office issued its first-ever red warning of danger to life from extreme heat, but nothing could have prepared for the sweltering effect as the temperatures soared to cross the 40 degrees Celsius mark across London and other parts of the United Kingdom.

Tuesday will not only go down in history as the hottest day the country has ever experienced, with 40.3C recorded at Lincolnshire in eastern England, but also for shaking up daily routines to devote all energy towards keeping cool.

While there were those who decided to use the heatwave as an excuse to take a day off work and head to the beach for a cooling swim, the majority decided to stay indoors and out of the scorching sun.

“I am going into work simply because that is where the air conditioning is,” said one UK-based Indian IT consultant, bemused at the obsessive temperature tracking on the news.

“I get that as a Delhiite the sound of 40 degrees Celsius doesn’t fill me with the same dread as people unaccustomed to those temperatures, but for it to dominate the news headlines over the prime ministerial race is a little over the top,” he said.

It did feel like for days the prospect of hitting that 40-degree mark was somewhat of a preoccupation, the previous record being 38.7 degrees Celsius from three years ago. Even the heated final voting rounds of the race to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister seemed to diminish in comparison.

From debates on social media around the wisdom of drinking warm or cold drinks in the hot weather to newspapers offering some very basic common-sense advice, such as wearing sunscreen and a hat when outdoors, the heatwave was an all pervasive topic of conversation.

Even the usually strict disciplinarian House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, allowed members of Parliament to shed their formal attire.

“While the heat remains at this exceptional level and for the remainder of this week, I’m content for members not to wear jackets and ties in the chamber if they so choose,” he said, as a multitude of fans were deployed across Parliament to keep the stuffy chambers cool.

For once, the favourite British summer pastime of rushing out for some sun-bathing the moment it gets even mildly warm also lost its appeal.

“We ought to enjoy the sunshine and actually we ought to be resilient enough through some of the pressures it will place,” said Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, sparking much fury at a seemingly flippant approach to what was officially classified as a “national emergency”.

“This isn’t like a lovely hot day where we can put a bit of sunscreen on, go out and enjoy a swim and a meal outside,” warned Tracy Nicholls, chief executive of the College of Paramedics.

“This is serious heat that could actually, ultimately, end in people’s deaths because it is so ferocious. We’re just not set up for that sort of heat in this country,” she said.

The key point was just that- not being set up for such high levels of heat in a region more accustomed to colder climes. Besides air conditioning not being a very common feature for most buildings, the infrastructure quite literally buckled under the heat- with a bulk of trains being cancelled due to over-heated tracks and the runway at Luton Airport melting under the extreme heat.

“With the best will in the world, this is infrastructure which has taken decades to build,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, as he admitted that it would take years for the UK to be prepared to cope with such high temperatures.

Those steps will need to be taken on an urgent basis as the UK government’s Climate Change Committee warned in its latest report this week that heat-related deaths could triple over the coming decades without action on overheating in homes across the UK.

In 2020, heatwaves already caused an additional 2,000 deaths, according to the UK’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA). While the Met Office classifies heatwaves as “extreme weather events”, scientific research shows that it is climate change that is making them more and more likely all over the world. That means the chances of the UK’s hottest day record being trumped in the coming years, if not months, are quite high
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