Temperature in Portuguese capital hits record 44 C as heat wave sears southern Europe

Lisbon has broken a 37-year-old record to notch its hottest temperature ever as an unrelenting wave of heat bakes Portugal and neighbouring Spain.

A hot air mass from Africa continues to bring intense heat to Portugal and Spain

A 37-year-old heat record in Lisbon was broken on Sunday as temperatures reached 44 C. (Rafael Marchante/Reuters)

Lisbon broke a 37-year-old record to notch its hottest temperature ever as an unrelenting heat wave baked Portugal and neighbouring Spain.

New heat records were set in 26 places around Portugal.

Portugal's weather service said the capital reached 44 C on Saturday, surpassing the city's previous record of 43 C set in 1981.

The day's hottest temperature of 46.8 C was recorded at Alvega in the centre of Portugal. The country's highest temperature on record is 47.4 C, from 2003.

Portugal's weather service said new maximum highs were recorded at 26 places from measurements taken at a total of 96 weather stations around the country. More than 60 per cent of the country registered temperatures of over 40 C.

The hot, dusty conditions across the Iberian Peninsula are the result of a mass of hot air from Africa and have increased the risk of forest fires. Over 700 firefighters were still battling a forest fire near the Portuguese town of Monchique in the southern Algarve region, a popular tourist destination.

Six people were injured late Saturday as they escaped a separate blaze near the Portuguese town of Estremoz, civil protection officer Jose Ribeiro told the Portuguese state television RTP.

Sunday's forecast calls for temperatures to dip slightly while remaining extremely high.

Portugal issued warnings of extreme heat for most of the country and forecast maximum temperatures of 44 C for some areas in the south.

Spain lowered its warnings for heat from "red" to "orange" for large parts of the south, but highs there were still predicted to reach 40-42 C.