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Rio de Janeiro bakes in record heat

SAO PAULO (AFP) – A heat wave that has settled over large parts of Brazil sent temperatures on Tuesday soaring in Rio de Janeiro to levels more akin to an oven.

Thermometers read 39 degrees Celsius (°C) but that didn’t convey the intensity of the heat, authorities said. In Rio, it felt like 58.5°C.

That was the “feels like” temperature, a measurement of how hot or cold it feels like on the skin, depending on humidity, temperature and wind speed.

It marked “the highest thermal sensation since the beginning of records” in 2014, surpassing highs of last February of 58°C, according to the Rio Alerta system.

Fifteen states in the southeast, centre-west and part of the north of the country, in addition to the capital, Brasilia, remained under alert by the National Institute of Meteorology (Inmet) due to extreme heat.

People cool themselves off at Urca beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. PHOTO: XINHUA
Firefighters survey the scene of a forest fire in the Pantanal wetland in Porto Jofre, Mato Grosso State, Brazil. PHOTO: AFP

The extreme heat also hit Sao Paulo residents, where thermometers rose to an average of 37.3°C on Tuesday afternoon, with a low humidity of 21 per cent, according to the municipal Climate Emergency Management Centre (CGE).

Unseasonably high temperatures, around 5°C above seasonal normal, have been punishing Brazilians especially since last weekend and will remain until tomorrow, Inmet estimated in a bulletin issued on Monday.

Sweltering heat sent electric power consumption soaring to record levels, the National Electric System Operator said.

As a consequence of the phenomenon known as El Nino, Brazil has suffered in recent months the impact of extreme weather, with a historic drought that has emptied rivers in the Amazon and intense rains accompanied by cyclones in the south of the country.

In addition, fires caused mainly by human action in the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland, have been aggravated in November by an exceptional drought.