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'Everything is melting': Argentines seek cool as heat wave strikes

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentines sought shade and tried to cool off in public fountains on Thursday as a heat wave hitting the country saw temperatures rise towards 40 degrees Celsius (104°F).

"Everything is melting, everything is melting," said Diego Gatti, a 34-year-old merchant in Buenos Aires, adding that at least near the coast there was some access to water and a breeze.

"Inland, things are complicated. Here at least you have the river and you have a little air. There, it is hell."

The South American country is home to some 45 million people and an important grains producer of soy, corn and wheat.

Hundreds of people flocked to rivers and doused themselves under colorful showers to contend with the heat, as an official red alert was issued for high temperatures around the country.

"Not even the air conditioning is enough," said 47-year-old Sergio Pavon.

"The heat spreads from the roof through the house, you just can't stay there. So the best thing is to escape and look for a place like this (by the river) to have a good time and enjoy it with the family."

(Reporting by Miguel Lo Bianco and Horacio Soria; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Sandra Maler)