Malta was sizzling in a mid-summer heatwave on Sunday and the Met Office could offer no immediate hope of respite, with the temperature expected to hover around 39 degrees (in the shade) till Thursday.

While many headed for the beach, others made a beeline for airconditioned premises, including restaurants and also supermarkets. A San Gwann supermarket had a queue of people waiting to enter in the morning.

The Met Office's seven-day forecast showed the maximum temperature at 39 degrees until the coming Thursday and a spokesperson said the office only expected the temperature to start going down to 37°C on Friday and 35°C on Saturday.

No record-breaking temperatures are forecast.

The spokesman said the current heatwave is the result of a high-pressure system rising from northern Africa and extending into the central Mediterranean. The heat is further exacerbated due to a lack of air circulation, causing pressure to remain static and temperatures to rise.

While northwesterly winds are generally not ‘warm’ winds, air will become heated over the land track, resulting in higher temperatures, it added.

A heatwave is experienced when the mean monthly maximum temperature is exceeded by at least 5°C for three or more consecutive days.

The mean maximum temperature for August is 31.7°C, the Met Office said. 

The hottest August day ever recorded in Malta was 43.8˚C in August 1999. That was also the highest temperature  on record in the country.  

The is the second heatwave Malta is experiencing this summer.

A period of high temperatures in June peaked at 41.5°C - the hottest June day on record. That turned out to be the longest June heatwave in a decade, technically coming to an end on July 2.

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