A heat wave has scorched central Chile for several days with the highest temperatures for August - a winter month in the Southern Hemisphere - since 1973.

Thermometers were up to 31 C (88 F) this Sunday in Santiago, a temperature not seen here in the month of August for 41 years, the weather service said.

High temperatures also affected the regions of Coquimbo and O'Higgins in the central part of the country. In the city of Ovalle thermometers soared to 36 C (97 F).

Roberto Rondanelli of the Geophysical Department at the University of Chile said the heat wave is the result of compression, a meteorological phenomenon produced by descending warm fronts combined with wind from the east.

Many Santiago residents decided to take advantage of the hot weather, so unusual in August, to visit the city's parks and plazas.

Forecasters said the heat would return on Monday to Santiago and Chile's central area, though in the coming days temperatures will drop to highs of around 18 C (64 F). EFE