Fires stoked by hot winds have swept through southern Italy, after a monitoring station in Sicily reported temperatures of 48.8 Celsius (119.84آ°F) which some scientists believe could be the highest in European history.
The record temperature, which still needs to be verified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), was reported on Wednesday close to the city of Syracuse, in the southeast of the island of Sicily.
"If the data is validated, it could become the highest value ever recorded in Europe, beating the previous record of 48 degrees measured in Athens on July 10, 1977," meteorologist Manuel Mazzoleni wrote on 3Bmeteo.com, a specialist website.
Firemen said on Twitter they had carried out more than 500 operations in Sicily and Calabria in the last 12 hours, employing five planes to try to douse the flames from above. They said the situation was now "under control" on the island of Sicily.
Wildfires raged also in the southern part island of Sardinia, where in the early hours of Thursday morning the fire brigade were trying to put out a blaze in a rural area near the town of Mandas, where a blaze spread on several fronts, burning a nearby forest. Two teams of firefighters were deployed to protect some residential structures on the outskirts of the town.
Serious damage has also been reported in Calabria, the toe of Italy's "boot," where some families left their homes and a man died on Wednesday.
In Siano, near Catanzaro in Calabria, firefighters worked throughout the night to stop a fire that engulfed the local carriage museum and to save the artistic heritage inside the museum.
Temperatures are expected to rise in several Italian cities on Friday, when the heatwave could reach its peak, according to a health ministry bulletin.