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UK heatwave: Red heat warning comes into force across Medway, Dartford and Gravesend

A red weather warning spreading from Kent to York came into force today as temperatures rose as high as 35C across the county.

By 10am Manston had reached 29.5C, climbing to 34C by 4pm - while in East Malling thermometers hit the mid-30C mark.

Margate was rammed over the weekend as everyone looked to top up their tans with pictures of its packed beaches making headline news.

But while the numbers were definitely down on the last two days, the beach was still bustling today with those soaking up the sun.

And despite it being a school day, there were plenty of children with their families too.

People enjoying the sun in Margate on July 18. Picture: Chris Britcher
People enjoying the sun in Margate on July 18. Picture: Chris Britcher
People enjoying the sun in Margate on July 18. Picture: Chris Britcher
People enjoying the sun in Margate on July 18. Picture: Chris Britcher

And the temperature? Being in the mid-30s it was starting to get toasty – leaving many to take to the tidal pool to cool off.

One beach-goer said: "It is getting progressively hotter down here, but the chance to take a dip and have an ice cream while the sun shines was too good an opportunity to miss."

It was blistering hot to the north of the county too, although a slight sea breeze was keeping the few brave, or foolhardy, sun-worshippers on the Isle of Sheppey relatively cool.

The Leas at Minster would normally be packed on a day like today but although there were cars and campers parked along the road and shingle bank this morning, there were few people about.

Minster promenade was like a ghost town.

Isle of Sheppey was much quieter on Monday. Picture John Nurden
Isle of Sheppey was much quieter on Monday. Picture John Nurden

But the unprecedented temperatures expected today have come with a red heat warning due to risk of travel disruption and a danger to life.

The UK Health Security Agency has increased its heat health warning from level three to level four – a “national emergency”.

Level four is reached “when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system… At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups,” it said.

The government's advice is that 999 services should be used in emergencies only and people should seek advice from 111 if they need non-emergency health advice.

Substantial changes in working practices and daily routines are likely to be required and delays on roads are possible, the Met Office says.

Southeastern has warned passengers if they do travel to expect delays.

It said: "Weather warnings for extreme heat are in place for Monday and Tuesday and speed restrictions will be in place across our network.

"Services may be disrupted and you should only travel if necessary."

Network Rail, which handles the rail infrastructure, added: "Only travel in England and Wales if absolutely necessary during the record-breaking temperatures from Monday."

Kent Highways has urged people to be prepared by checking the latest travel updates, leaving more time for journeys and checking vehicles.

There were long delays at border control for tourists and freight at the port of Dover this afternoon.

Passengers were waiting at least one hour and 30 minutes to board Dfds Seaways and P&O Ferries.

Services between Dover and Calais and Dover and Dunkerque have been impacted due to high demand.

P&O told customers: "While we sympathise with people affected by the queues, these are at the border controls and we have no control over this part of your journey.

"Our check-in is clear and once you reach us you will be on the first available ferry."

Saturday kick-started the beginning of the heatwave, with Heathrow Airport and Kew Gardens, in west London, recording the highest temperature of 29.1C.

Kent Fire and Rescue Services has asked people to be careful as the weather can lead to more accidental fires starting due to more barbecues and bonfires.

Area manager Leanne McMahon said: “We will always be there and ready to respond in times of need, but we’re asking the public to do their bit and take care to reduce the risk of fires starting in the first place.

“Grass fires often require a large amount of fire service resources and can take hours or days to fully extinguish.

"We want to work together with people living, working and visiting the county to reduce the chance of accidental grass fires, keeping people safe and freeing up our crews to respond to other, less-preventable emergencies.

Fire and smoke billow from a huge grass fire at Barton's Point Coastal Park, Sheerness, Sheppey, on Saturday night. It is believed it was started by sparks from a model aeroplane fireworks display. Picture: Andy Gray (Facebook)
Fire and smoke billow from a huge grass fire at Barton's Point Coastal Park, Sheerness, Sheppey, on Saturday night. It is believed it was started by sparks from a model aeroplane fireworks display. Picture: Andy Gray (Facebook)

“If you see a grass fire, move to a safe place and call 999 - please don't try to tackle it yourself.

"We also ask everyone to check in on loved ones and neighbours who may struggle in the heat, to make sure that they are safe and well, and have everything they need to stay as cool and comfortable as possible.”

Follow these tips to help prevent fires this summer:

  • Keep barbecues clear of fences and greenery, always supervise the cooking, and only dispose of ash once it’s cold.
  • If using a disposable barbecue, place it on a flat, non-flammable surface and only dispose of it once it’s cold - whether that’s in a bin or at a waste site.
  • Keep bonfires to a manageable size, make sure it’s well clear of greenery and property, and always supervise the burning. Keep a bucket of water or hosepipe nearby in case flames start to spread, and avoid having one at all in windy weather.
  • Dispose of smoking materials responsibly, making sure cigarettes are fully out and cold before being put in a bin - do not drop them onto the ground, and consider using a portable ashtray.

The warm weather saw increased demand for water in some parts, with South East Water confirming residents in Challock and Molash having no water due to “continuous hot weather and significantly increased demand for water” putting “significant pressure on our network”.

UK Heatwave Alert Levels. PA Graphics
UK Heatwave Alert Levels. PA Graphics

They have now set up a bottled water station has been set up at Challock Village Hall and will be open today from 8am to 9pm.

A statement from the company this morning said: "We're really sorry to our customers in Challock and Molash who have no water. The continuous hot weather and significantly increased demand for water has put a significant pressure on our network.

"On average, we supply 520 million litres of water daily, through 9000 miles of pipes. Throughout, the summer months, this goes up to 540 million litres of water.

"Currently, our production sites are running at capacity while we supply more than 600 million litres a day to 2.3 million customers.

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"Our timeline will have all the latest updates, with the most recent at the top and our bottled water map has all the information about location and opening hours.

"We appreciate your patience."

Meteorologists have given an 80% chance of the mercury topping the UK’s record temperature of 38.7C, set in Cambridge in 2019, with the current heatwave set to peak on Tuesday.

Temperatures are forecast to increase by several more degrees on Tuesday – up to the mid-30s for much of England and Wales.

Cabinet Office Minister Kit Malthouse warned transport services face “significant disruption” this week due to the heatwave, urging people not to travel.

Ministers held an emergency Cobra meeting yesterday after meteorologists warned of record high temperatures in England next week that could put lives at risk.

After chairing the meeting, Mr Malthouse told the BBC: “Obviously the transport providers are messaging people that they should only travel if they really need to on Monday and Tuesday.

“Services are going to be significantly affected. The heat will affect rails, for example, so the trains have to run slower. There may be fewer services. People need to be on their guard for disruption.

“If they don’t have to travel, this may be a moment to work from home.”

Mr Malthouse said steps have been taken to ensure hospitals and ambulances that may come under pressure were prepared, while schools were being issued with guidance to enable them to remain open.

He added in a separate statement: “It’s important that we all continue to follow public health advice to keep cool, and take simple precautions like drinking lots of water and seeking shade, and also checking on vulnerable friends and neighbours.”

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