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France activates heatwave emergency number as forecasters predict 43C over weekend

The Local France
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France activates heatwave emergency number as forecasters predict 43C over weekend
People sit in the shade of a tree to protect themselves from the sun in Lyon. Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

The French government has activated the heatwave phoneline after the Prime Minister called an emergency meeting ahead of what forecasters say could be France's most intense heatwave ever recorded.

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A 'heat dome' has formed over much of France, leading to heatwave warnings across the country and what forecasters say could be the most intense heatwave ever recorded.

Twenty eight départements are already on orange alert because of high temperatures - Drôme, Ardèche, Aveyron, Haute-Garonne, Haute-Saône, Côte d'Or, Nièvre, Haut-Rhin, Territoire de Belfort, Allier, Cantal, Puy-de-Dôme, Doubs, Jura, Saône-et-Loire, Corrèze, Gers, Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Ain, Rhône, Isère, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Loire and Haute-Loire - and temperatures across the country are expected to rise over the weekend.

Orange heatwave alerts in France on Thursday. Map: Meteo France

Forecasters are predicting temperatures of up to 43C in the south and the east of the country, while northern and central France will see temperatures of 35C and above.

Heat dome could bring 'France's most intense heatwave ever'

The south of the country has also seen several large-scale wildfires in recent days, with the parched ground and drought conditions creating a high risk of further fires.

The freephone number - 0800 06 66 66 - is regularly activated during periods of intense heatwave and offers health and safety advice, as well as alerting emergency services to vulnerable people at risk from the heat.

Hospitals in Toulouse, where temperatures have been unusually high since the start of the week, are already reporting a rise in heat-related admissions, especially among the elderly.

Health minister Aurélien Rousseau said: "We all need to be extremely vigilant in the face of this heatwave, which is arriving later this summer and looks set to be the hottest of the summer season.

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"The Ministry's departments, the regional health agencies and all our partners are mobilised to deal with the situation. Protecting the elderly, young children, people with disabilities, chronic health conditions or who are isolated, is also at the heart of our concerns and affects us all."

Ever since the 2003 heatwave in which 15,000 people died, French local authorities have been legally obliged to have heatwave emergency plans in place, and to deploy them once Météo France issues a heatwave warning.

Meanwhile the SPF public health authority said on Thursday that at least 30 more deaths than normal had occurred during a July heatwave in the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region, on top of 80 in a first episode in June.

More than 4,800 deaths were attributed to heat in France last summer, out of 61,000 across Europe.

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A so-called "heat dome" trapping new hot air arriving from the south is expected to form in the coming days.

"These high temperatures are set to last, with peaks nearing 40C on the Mediterranean coast and the Rhone valley from this weekend," weather authority Météo France said.

Heat will spread into central and northern France as well, with temperatures of 35C forecast for Paris.

Thermometers will not begin to fall until "the middle or even the end of next week," Meteo France added.

Meteorologists have even suggested that France could see its most intense heatwave ever - outstripping 2012's record - with an average temperature of 27C recorded for multiple days across 30 monitoring stations nationwide.

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