France scorched by heatwave after months of rain
After two months of unseasonal downpours, France is sweltering under a heatwave this weekend, with record temperatures forecast in Paris, Strasbourg and the Alps. Holiday-makers were sweating in 600 kilometres of traffic jams on the country’s motorways on Saturday.
Temperatures in Paris are expected to go over 38°C, a record for the period after 15 August which has never seen the thermometer go over 36°C before.
Records have already been beaten on the west coast city of Bordeaux, which has experienced 39.1°C compared to 38.7°C in August 1922.
Forecasters expect 38°C in the Alsace capital, Strasbourg, 40°C in Grenoble in the French Alps and 39°C in the Orleans area.
They predict a spectacular rise of the thermometer in the centre of the country, Burgundy, the Lyon area and the Auvergne.
Twenty-three departments are on alert with health services, local authorities and old people’s homes coordinating to ensure no repeat of the tragedy that struck during the heatwave of 2003 when 15,000 more people are believed to have died than in a normal year.
Most of the victims in 2003 were elderly, some left alone in their homes without contact with friends, neighbours or family. Public health announcements aimed principally at old people are now being broadcast on TV and radio to urge them to drink water and stay in the shade when the heat is most intense.
Emergency services reported no incidents on Saturday morning but warned that the effects of extreme heat can take two or three days to manifest themselves.
In the southern cities of Toulouse, Montauban and Cahors water is being distributed to the homeless and other vulnerable people.
The heat has done nothing to discourage the latest wave of holiday-makers leaving for the coast or the country.
Traffic monitors recorded 616 kilometres of traffic jams at 1.00pm Saturday, mostly heading south from Paris and the north of the country – on the A6, A7, A71 and A10 motorways – but some heading north from the south-east as an earlier wave of holiday-makers headed home.
The heat also increases the risk of wild fires, such as those that ravaged neighbouring Spanish Catalonia last month. A fire in the Gironde, in the west of the country, laid waste to 650 hectares of forest this week but firefighters brought it under control on Friday.