Express & Star

Humans and safari animals struggle to stay cool as heatwave batters West Midlands

Records were smashed in the West Midlands this week as an unprecedented heatwave caused temperatures to soar to 39C (102.2F).

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Penguins and ice cubes

The record breaking temperature for the region was recorded at Wellesbourne in Warwickshire on Tuesday, the Met Office said.

But it was almost as high in Coleshill, east of Birmingham, where it hit 38.8C (101.84F) – almost four degrees warmer than the last hottest day recorded there in 2006.

It came on the day the Queen's Baton passed through Staffordshire on the latest leg of an international relay ahead of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Matthew Box, forecaster for the Met Office, said: "It's the warmest day on record across much of England and Wales. We also had records broken on Monday for Wales. It's been an amazing event."

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust Charity and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust’s Well Wishers charity have been able to offer staff fruit, drinks and ice creams over the last few days

However, the heat caused numerous problems for public transport, while some schools closed and extreme temperatures led to fridges shutting down in supermarkets.

There were no trains operating in or out of Birmingham New Street on Tuesday afternoon after "extreme temperatures" damaged overhead power lines.

Scorching temperatures affected the station's 25,000-volt overhead cables, meaning no services could operate to and from the station for part of the day.

Passengers on one train from Lichfield to New Street reported being stuck in a tunnel at around 1pm after seeing overhead wires fall onto the track.

The train was then plunged into darkness and passengers reported hearing "explosions".

Network Rail had engineers working to resolve the issue.

Firefighters have also been dealing with a number of outdoor blazes during the hot weather, including at Sedgley's Beacon Hill where 13 crew members rushed on Monday afternoon.

The blaze involved grass and shrubland spanning approximately 300 square metres and was believed to have been started deliberately.

West Midlands Fire Service said it had received 717 incident calls on Monday, 195 more than the previous day and 280 more than the number it received on Monday, July 11.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said it received 4,731 999 calls on Monday, lower than the 6,205 taken the previous Monday on July 11.

West Midlands Metro also reported delays to services due to speed restrictions caused by the extreme heat and National Highways repeated its call for motorists to carry out vehicle checks before they set off.

Supermarkets felt the strain with signs put up in the Tesco store in Hurst Hill saying that due to extreme weather conditions all fridges had shut down.

All freezers and fridges in Tesco, Walsall, have broken due to the extreme heat

Shoppers noticed similar problems at Tesco Extra in Walsall on Monday.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Some refrigeration and freezer units at our Walsall Extra are currently undergoing maintenance and our maintenance teams are working hard to get them back up and running.

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Yet more schools were forced to close due to the unprecedented temperatures.

Those included The Dormston School in Sedgley, Wood Green Academy in Wednesbury and St Edmund’s Catholic Academy in Wolverhampton.

Highfields School in Wolverhampton also decided to close due to fears the school ventilation system would not hold up, given the warmth overnight.

Meanwhile, the extreme heat led to the Shugborough Estate closing its doors at 3pm and other attractions in the region also took precautions to operate safely.

Animals big and small at West Midland Safari Park had their favourite foods prepared in ice blocks to help them keep cool in the blistering heat.

Meerkats and ice balls

Keepers used a variety of vessels, such as buckets, tubing and silicone trays, to make sure the size of the lollies suited the animals they were for.

The lollies include the animals' favourite treats, such as fruit for the lemurs, insects for the meerkats and blood for the lions.

Large animals such as the Indian rhinos had huge ice blocks, whereas the tiny meerkats receive small ice spheres – and by presenting food in different ways, the lollies also formed a part of the animals’ enrichment.

Angela Potter, head of wildlife at the park near Bewdley, said: "Some of our exotic species really enjoy the sunshine, but when the temperatures soar, we do provide them with some extra enrichment to ensure that they feel more comfortable.

"Frozen, animal-appropriate ice lollies are very popular and many of our species, big and small, enjoy these treats.

"The giraffe and rhinos enjoy frozen vegetables and browse twigs, whilst the lemur and lorikeet lollies are made with pieces of fruit.

"For the animals that eat meat and insects, we may add things like fish for the penguins, mealworms for the meerkats and even blood for the lions.

"We also ensure the mud wallows are kept topped up so that species such as the Pére David’s deer and barasingha can cool off when needed."

Donkeys cooling off in the heat at The Donkey Sanctuary Birmingham

Donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sutton Park also enjoyed trays of cold peppermint tea, thyme tea and water.

Extra canopies were put up so they could get into the shade and out of the hot sun, while fly face masks kept buzzing insects at bay.

Staff working in hospitals and community services across Walsall and Wolverhampton were given a helping hand in the heatwave thanks to the efforts of their charities.

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust Charity and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust’s Well Wishers charity were able to offer staff fruit, drinks and ice creams over the last few days.

At Walsall Manor Hospital, staff were offered a free ice lolly thanks to support from the trust’s catering department.

The charity was also supported by Skanska, Darbar Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Morrisons and Asda in providing free water, drinks, fruit, snacks, tissues, and wipes over the weekend.

On Sunday, a group of volunteers from the Sikh temple in Rollingmill Street kindly set up outside Walsall’s emergency department to give staff, West Midlands Police and West Midlands Ambulance Service samosas, drinks, and fruit.

Colleagues at Walsall community sites were able to get free refreshments from Walsall Palliative Care Centre and Hollybank House over the weekend and, through their line managers, funds were made available to keep them refreshed throughout the heatwave.

At The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, (RWT), staff were treated to a free ice-cream at Cannock Chase, New Cross and West Park hospitals thanks to charity funding and the charity team secured bottles of water from Tesco in Willenhall and Morrisons in Cannock.

Amanda Winwood, RWT charity development manager, said: “The charity was pleased to organise ice-cream trucks over the past week to keep our staff cool during the heatwave, making it a little easier to work in such temperatures.

“We would like to thank our local corporate supporters and supermarkets in offering bottles of water to help keep staff hydrated.”