MOSCOW — It's so hot that women in bikinis are sunbathing in Moscow.
A heat wave across much of Europe also is causing crops to wither, forest fires to ignite and roads to melt, while refrigerators and fans are buckling in the searing sun.
From Russia's Urals mountains to western Germany, a week of temperatures hovering stubbornly in the mid-90s has baked northern parts of Europe, which are usually spared the heat of the Mediterranean — and forecasters are warning of more to come over the next week.
People were finding ways to beat the heat. There was the rare sight of women in bikinis sunbathing Thursday in Kolomenskoye park in Moscow, while other people tried to cool off by soaking themselves in fountains and playing in water jets in the Russian capital, Belarus and other parts of Europe.
But it hasn't been all fun and games. The air-conditioning systems on board the high-speed trains of Germany's national rail operator Deutsche Bahn broke down several times. With locked windows, dozens of passengers were afflicted with heat exhaustion after spending hours trapped in temperatures of up to 122 degrees.
The higher temperatures are being caused by an interaction between a zone of low pressure to the northwest of the United Kingdom and high pressure around the Mediterranean, British weather service spokesman Barry Gromett said.
"What that does is to bring hot African air up over Europe," he said.
Russia's worst droughts in a century have destroyed almost 25 million acres of crops in central and European areas, authorities said. A state of emergency has been declared in 18 Russian provinces, where fire has engulfed more than 64,000 acres of forest.
Meanwhile, drowning deaths were up in Eastern Europe as people flocked to seas, lakes and rivers in search of a break from the blistering heat. More than 230 people drowned in the last week alone across Russia.