Eight places in Portugal have broken local temperature records as a wave of heat from North Africa swept across the Iberian peninsula — and officials predict the scorching temperatures could get even worse over the weekend

Temperatures built to around 45 degrees Celsius on Friday (local time) in many inland areas of Portugal, and were expected to peak at 47C in some places on Saturday. Large sections of Portugal are on red alert on the Civil Protection Agency’s danger scale.

The highest temperature recorded on Thursday, when the heat began to rise, was 45.2C near Abrantes, a town 150 kilometres north-east of the capital, Lisbon, the country’s weather agency IPMA said.

Portugal’s highest recorded temperature was 47.4C, in 2003. Emergency services have issued a red alert through Sunday placing extra services such as medical staff and firefighters on standby.

More than 740 firefighters battled a forest fire in southern Portugal throughout Saturday as the temperatures climbed to near record highs.

Seeking to prevent more deaths after 114 people were killed in two massive forest blazes last year in Portugal, civil protection sent mobile text alerts warning the population of an extreme risk of fires in some regions, including around the capital Lisbon. In Greece, a wildfire killed 91 people last month.

In the coastal resort area of Cascais, outside Lisbon, a power network overload due to heavy use of air conditioning caused a blackout on Friday night, leaving tens of thousands of people without power for several hours and shutting a large shopping mall. In Lisbon, temperatures reached 43 degrees Celsius on Friday.

The blaze began on Saturday in the hilly Monchique area of the southern Algarve region, popular with tourists. Authorities evacuated two villages in the area and 10 water-carrying aircraft were being used to fight the flames.

In Portugal’s southern Alentejo province, streets were largely deserted. Some farmers chose to work during the night instead of in the heat of the day. Beaches around Lisbon, the capital, were packed.

Some 400 firefighters and five water-dropping aircraft, meanwhile, were battling a wildfire in southern Portugal’s Algarve region.

Portugal has large bushfires every year, although unseasonably cool weather through the end of July has meant fewer blazes in 2018. The Government says only about 15 per cent of the 10-year average area has been charred so far this year.