Paris   -      A dangerously intense heat wave across much of Europe is to spike even higher Thursday after already breaking records in several countries, impacting rail traffic and sending people in search of shade and water. Paris was expected to see the mercury soar to as much as 41 or 42 degrees Celsius, breaking a 70-year-plus record of 40.4C (104.7 Fahrenheit) and turning the UNESCO-listed capital into a baking urban bowl.

Britain’s Met Office predicted a chance that the UK record of 38.5C, which was recorded in Faversham, Kent, in August 2004, would also be exceeded on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands all recorded their all-time highest temperatures.

Thursday was forecast to be the peak of Europe’s latest heatwave -- the second in less than a month and impetus for new focus to be given to climate change.

Cooler weather with rain was expected to provide relief from Friday.

The body-sapping, leaden, shrivelling heat was posing difficulties for humans, animals and crops across the continent.

The northern third of France, including Paris, was under a red alert while the rest of the country had a yellow warning and water-use restrictions were in force.

In the Netherlands, farmers have been leaving their cows outside to sleep, rather than bringing them in at night, while Dutch media said hundreds of pigs died when a ventilator failed at Middelharnis.

On Wednesday, the southern Dutch town of Gilze-Rijen experienced 38.8C heat, surpassing a record dating back 75 years.