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Almost 700 firefighters battle new wildfire in France

Nearly 700 firefighters were battling to contain a new wildfire in southern France on Tuesday that has already forced the evacuation of a village and burned through 1,000 hectares of forest and vineyards, local officials said.

Almost 700 firefighters battle new wildfire in France
This picture taken on July 26, 2022, showing flames rising from a forest fire in southern France. (Photo by Sylvain THOMAS / AFP)

Residents in Aumelas, a settlement of 500 people 20km west of Montpellier, have been ordered to leave their homes as winds carry the flames towards them.

“In total nearly 500 firefighters are deployed,” the local government said in a statement, adding that two aircraft were also dropping water on the blaze. By the night of Tuesday, July 26th that number had risen to 650 firefighters, as shown in a tweet from local authorities below:

The head of communication for the local fire department, Jérôme Bonnafoux, told BFMTV on Wednesday morning that “the fire is progressing less quickly” and that a drop in temperature during the night helped turn the tide.

Nevertheless, caution remains the order of the day. According to Bonnafoux, two other fires have broken out in two other communes, requiring some forces to be diverted to those locations.

The surrounding Herault region was also hit by a relatively small wildfire last week and is considered at “high” or “very high” risk of fires after months of drought-like conditions and high temperatures.

Two huge blazes near Bordeaux in southwest France over the last fortnight destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest and required around 2,000 firefighters to bring them under control.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Paris officials to run emergency exercise simulating a 50C day in the city

As the climate crisis pushes temperatures ever higher, officials in Paris are preparing a simulation of the day when the mercury tops 50C, in order to prepare the city's emergency response.

Paris officials to run emergency exercise simulating a 50C day in the city

This simulation, which was announced on Wednesday, is set to take place in October 2023, and it would plunge two parts of one arrondissement (which has not yet been decided) into the fictitious scenario to test the city’s capacity to respond to such a crisis. 

The current temperature record in Paris is 42.6C, which was set during the heatwave of 2019, but experts predict that the record is unlikely to remain unbroken for much longer.  

According to Deputy Mayor of Paris, Penelope Komitès, the city wants to be able to anticipate the next disaster.

“[Paris] has withstood various crises in recent years,” she said to French daily Le Parisien. The public official referenced past disasters, such as the flood of the Seine in 2018, Notre-Dame catching on fire, along with widespread protests and social movements.

“What will be the next crisis?” she said.

Public authorities hope to expand upon and move beyond the city’s first “action plan,” which was adopted in 2017.

The heatwave simulation would allow the city to test its emergency response capacity, namely deployment of cool rooms, shaded areas and other measures. It would also allow public officials to gauge and predict the reactions of Parisians amid a disastrous heatwave of 50C. 

READ MORE: ‘Over 40C’: What will summers in Paris be like in future?

“We have survived crises, but they can happen again,” Komitès said to Le Parisien. Her goal is not for the simulation to provoke anxiety, but instead to prepare the city to mobilise in such an event. 

According to RTL, on Wednesday, the greater Paris region also presented its plan to adapt the community “to the effects of climate change”.

Valérie Pécresse, the regional representative, referenced plans for “1,000 fountains” and the creation of “a network of climate shelters.”

Additionally, the region has set a target of increasing its green space by 5,000 hectares by 2030. The targets of this plan would include priority urban spaces: schoolyards, parking lots, squares, as well as cemeteries.

In 2003, the country suffered a historic heatwave that resulted in at least 14,000 heat-related deaths. Since then, France and its cities have begun adapting to rising temperatures by working to increase green space, provide ‘heat

An analysis from the BBC in 2021 found that “the number of extremely hot days every year when the temperature reaches 50C has doubled since the 1980s.”

READ MORE: Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

This will not be the first simulation activity to anticipate or help the public become aware of rising temperatures. 

In 2014, meteorologist Evelyne Dhéliat gave a ‘fake forecast’ pretending that the year was 2050. The temperatures on her map however, ended up being eerily close to those France has seen regularly since 2019.

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