The first heatwave of the summer has hit Spain, pushing temperatures past 40C (104F) and prompting health warnings for locals and tourists alike as the country begins its August holiday. Spain's meteorological office, Aemet, said the hot spell would stretch from Wednesday to at least Sunday as a mass of hot air moved up from Africa. "The spell will be particularly intense and long-lasting in the south-west, the central area and the Ebro valley, with temperatures passing 40C from Wednesday," it said in a statement. The UK's Met Office said that the "exceptional" temperatures in Europe could surpass records in the coming days, warning British tourists heading south to prepare for extreme heat. The highest temperature yet recorded in Europe was 48C in Athens in 1977, while the Spanish province of Cordoba saw a temperature of 47.3C in July last year. "[The] exceptional heat over the Iberian peninsula could have serious consequences on people there, and on transport, and on tourists who aren't used to that heat - and of course locals won't be used to these kinds of extreme - so certainly something to keep an eye on," said Aidan McGivern of the Met Office. The Madrid region has been put on orange alert, as has the nearby province of Toledo, the Extremadura region and parts of western Andalucia, including the provinces of Sevilla and Cordoba. Aemet added that temperatures could climb as high as 42 to 44C on Thursday and Friday in some southern and central areas, while the southern part of the verdant and rainy north-western region of Galicia could see the mercury reach 41C towards the end of the week.