warning that a record-breaking heatwave was a dire reminder for urgent action. Members of the group Just Stop Oil climbed gantries over the M25 encircling London, causing police to intervene and vehicles to back up for several miles (kilometres) in one direction.
Surrey Police later said a 22-year-old woman who had climbed a gantry was arrested on suspicion of causing a danger to road users, causing a public nuisance and for being a pedestrian on the motorway.
Three lanes that were shut as she was brought down were later reopened, the forced added. Temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in southern England for the first time on Tuesday, with a new record set at 40.3C.
The extreme heat caused huge transport disruption and sparked the same kind of wildfires seen in Europe in recent years.
Government minister Kit Malthouse told parliament that 34 places saw temperatures in excess of the previous record of 37.8C in 2019.
Firefighters saw “their busiest day since World War II”, dealing with dozens of wildfires as 15 fire and rescue services declared major incidents, he said.
He said at least 41 properties were destroyed in London, 14 in Norfolk, eastern England, five in Lincolnshire, and smaller numbers elsewhere.
Malthouse, who chaired weekend meetings of the government’s emergency contingencies committee, called for the public to heed safety advice, as the risk of more wildfires was still high despite a dip in temperatures.
“Tragically… 13 people are believed to have lost their lives after getting into difficulty in rivers, reservoirs and lakes while swimming in recent days –- seven of them teenage boys,” he added.
London Fire Brigade said 16 firefighters were injured around the capital with two taken to hospital.
The city’s mayor Sadiq Khan said the service received more than 2,600 calls on Tuesday — up from a normal day of about 350.
Khan also accused Conservative leadership candidates vying to succeed Prime Minister Boris Johnson of ignoring “the elephant in the room” of climate change.
Just Stop Oil said it regretted disruption to the public from its latest action on the M25, after activists had previously staged sit-in protests on that road and others.
But declaring the M25 “a site of civil resistance”, it warned of further protests to come this week. “This is the moment when climate inaction is truly revealed in all its murderous glory for everyone to see: as an elite-driven death project that will extinguish all life if we let it,” the activist group said.