Europe battles extreme weather

Large swathes of central and western England remain submerged as rivers swelled and burst their banks during four days of heavy and persistent rain, leaving thousands without clean water or electricity and facing the prospect of more rain.

Britain's COBRA government emergency planning committee have amid concerns that an electricity sub-station in Gloucester will be flooded, leaving half a million homes without electricity.

Fortunately for residents of the area, the Environment Agency said that the River Severn had reached a peak there, just five centimetres below the main wall protecting the city centre and the power station.

The Royal Air Force evacuated around 150 people in its biggest ever peacetime rescue, while over 100 Royal Navy sailors were sent to bolster flood defences around the electricity sub-station which serves 500,000 homes.

Climate change blamed

Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier linked the floods to climate change and pledged £200 million pounds ($A466 million) extra funding, plus a review to address future issues.

His comments came as a study released in the British science journal Nature yielded the first confirmation that global warming is already affecting world rainfall patterns.

Changes in climate were bringing more precipitation to northern Europe, Canada and northern Russia but less to swathes of sub-Saharan Africa, southern India and Southeast Asia, according to scientists with Environment Canada.

Heatwave grips east

As Britain grappled with floods, soaring temperatures continued to wreak havoc across other parts of Europe.

The death toll from a week-long heatwave in Romania rose to 18, the health minister said, and a red alert was called for several regions Tuesday where temperatures were set to reach 41 degrees Celsius for the second day in a row.

Bulgaria meanwhile experienced its hottest temperatures since records began Monday with the thermometer shooting above 45 degrees Celsius in parts of the country, the meteorological institute said.

One person has died because of the soaring temperatures, which are expected to keep climbing over the next two days. The heat has also contributed to 1,900 forest fires around the country.

In the north, the mayor of Kozloduy declared a state of emergency because of the extreme drought, which has destroyed 90 percent of the corn and sunflower harvest. Water rationing has been imposed in nine towns around Veliko Tarnovo.

Forest fires have also been breaking out across southern Europe. In Greece two pilots died when their Canadair water-bomber crashed while fighting a fire on the island of Evia. Their deaths bring the toll from a month of fires to five, following a series of fires believed to be the result of arson.

Over 300 fires have broken out around Greece since the weekend, fire officials said, aided by a combination of high temperatures and strong winds.

Greece earlier this month experienced what authorities described as its longest heat wave in over 100 years, during which 15 people died, and the current hot spell is set to continue until Thursday.

Another water-bomber plane crashed in central Italy Monday, killing one pilot and seriously injuring the other.

More than 8,000 firefighters are mobilised against fires across the country, and according to ANSA news agency, several residential areas have been evacuated in central Urbino and Sardinia because of blazes.