Temperatures soar as the heatwave continues across the south

People enjoying the sunshine at Hayling Island Credit: ITV Meridian

Thursday is expected to be the UK's hottest day of the year with scorching temperatures forecast to rise even further.

The Met Office said temperatures in parts of the south could reach 33C (91.4F). Temperatures reached 32.6C (90.7F) at Heathrow Airport at 2.46pm on Wednesday making it the hottest day of the year so far.

Thunderstorms are forecast to form in the south and south east of England from 4pm on Thursday. The Met Office has issued a yellow weather alert for those areas until 9am on Friday, warning of disruption due to flooding, lightning strikes, hail and wind. Between 30mm to 40mm of rain could fall in less than two hours.

Wednesday's good weather saw people flock to beaches in huge numbers despite social distancing measures remaining in place.

The Met Office raised its heat alert level to three, as health authorities encouraged those most vulnerable - many of whom have been shielding during lockdown - to protect themselves amid the "exceptionally hot weather forecast this week".

People enjoying the sunshine at Hayling Island Credit: ITV Meridian

Public Health England (PHE) said older people, those with underlying health conditions, and very young children were all more at risk from the higher temperatures.

People have been advised to keep cool and stay hydrated where possible. The Met Office said UV levels were expected to remain at eight across many parts of the UK on Thursday.

Shoppers have also been advised to be aware they could be forced to spend extra time in the sun as a result of social distancing measures. And dog owners have been urged to avoid exercising their pets during the hottest part of the day.

The RSPCA said it had received 330 calls in regard to animal welfare and the hot weather since March 23, adding it was expecting "hundreds more" as temperatures increase this week.