France takes steps to avoid repeat of deadly 2003 heatwave

France's national weather service put 47 areas on Orange alert and government implemented health measures as hot spell looks set to last.

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As temperatures continue to soar across France, government and health officials have implemented measures they hope will avoid a repeat of the infamous 2003 heat wave that caused thousands of deaths throughout the country, reports FRANCE 24.

France's national weather service on Wednesday put 47 regions on Orange Alert after several cities hit record-high temperatures the previous day. The agency warned of an “enduring heat wave of significant intensity requiring particular vigilance” across the country.

Paris residents and tourists saw thermometers rise to 34.2°C (93.6°F) on Tuesday and may have to cope with oppressive 39°C (102°F) heat on Wednesday. The wine-producing regions of Champagne and Burgundy were braced for highs of 40°C, with temperatures unlikely to dip below 30°C across France until the weekend.

France has adopted strict heat wave guidelines since the summer of 2003, when between 15,000 and 19,000 people died as a result of extreme temperatures – many of them isolated elderly citizens. The government at the time came under virulent criticism for neglecting the problem, with many ministers abroad on holidays while thousands agonised.

France’s alert system has since won plaudits from the UN, which has recommended that other countries refer to the European nation as a model for preventing such disasters.

While the alert system has proven effective in preventing health complications, especially among vulnerable members of the population, it cannot eliminate all the side effects of the blistering heat, such as overburdened electricity grids and pollution peaks.

Read more of this report from FRANCE 24.

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