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Friday, 9 July 2010

Heatwave alert in France

Ice cream to beat the heat, screenshot BFMTV report

It's hot in France at the moment - very hot.

and the country's meteorological service, Météo France, has put several regions on heatwave alert for the next couple of days. Daytime highs are forecast to peak at 37 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country and not dip below 20 degrees at night.

The heatwave is not predicted to be nearly as long or as fatal as the one that hit much of continental Europe in 2003 and during which around 15,000 (mainly elderly) people died in France.

But the health minister, Roselyne Bachelot, is not taking any chances and has advised local authorities to "be on their guard".

"The lessons of 2003 have been learned," she said on national radio Friday morning.

"Départements are ready and health facilities have been prepared. The number of hospital beds available is higher than normal at this time of year and mayors throughout the country have maintained lists to pinpoint those most at risk."

The eastern region of Alsace is expected to be one of the hottest places with temperatures in the main city of Strasbourg rising as high as 37 degrees Celsius.

The Prefect of the region, Pierre-Etienne Bisch, has put health and emergency services on high alert.

In Paris and the surrounding départements, local authorities have introduced a "system of support and guidance" for the most vulnerable citizens.

France's second largest city, Lyon, the surrounding metropolitan area and the whole of the Rhône département is the third region of the country in which emergency services are on high alert following Météo France's heatwave warning.

The hot spell also coincides with what is the second weekend of the summer holidays and tailbacks are expected on many of the country's motorways.

While the metro in the French capital for example has become a roasting tin for commuters and tourists alike and some bosses in companies around the country have encouraged employees to stagger their working hours and come in earlier to avoid the heat, one man in the south-western town of Moissac tried another way of dealing with the hot weather.

According to the regional daily La Dépêche du Midi, the man decided to begin mowing his lawn - at 11 o'clock at night - and would have continued doing so had his neighbours not complained and called the local police.

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