French minister issues warning as heatwave continues

The health minister issued a warning as emergency services became stretched due to heat complications

The French minister for health has issued a warning as 67 departments remain on heatwave alert today (Sunday August 5), with one man suffering a heart attack while mowing his lawn in the heat this week.

Two thirds of the country are still on heatwave alert from forecaster Météo France - with temperatures reaching over 40°C in some places - prompting minister Agnès Buzyn to issue a safety warning.

Ms Buzyn delayed her own holiday departure date to visit emergency paediatric wards at the Necker hospital in Paris, and during a press conference on Sunday (August 5) she warned that “4% of visits to urgent care in recent days” have been due to complications caused by the heat.

In the Rhône, emergency services were notably called to help an older man who suffered a heart attack while mowing his lawn during peak heat hours at around 16h.

In a statement, the Rhône pompiers said: “We have seen high [emergency] activity due to the heatwave, and noticed a fair amount of carelessness among the population, despite all the messages of caution.”

Ms Buzyn highlighted that “18 out of 650 emergency services [in France] are still under strain”.

Hot air from the Sahara has continued to bring high temperatures to France this weekend, with peaks of 35°C, 38°C, 39°C and even up to 42°C reported across the country.

Residents are warned not to spend time outside between 11h and 21h, to drink enough water, not to engage in strenuous physical activity, and help ensure that vulnerable and older people are safe.

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Similarly, parents are warned not to let children go outside in peak hours, and to supervise them at all times when near swimming spots or areas of water, after a rise in the number of reported drownings.

Ms Buzyn said: “We must be especially vigilant. Parents are visiting water spots with their families, but we have seen a rise in the number of drownings [as a result].”

Parents of babies were also warned to be alert to their temperature, and to avoid carrying them ‘body-to-body’ using slings or “a scarf system”, Ms Buzyn said.

Drought warnings are also in place across 39 departments, limiting water usage.

On the roads, after a Saturday that was declared “extremely difficult” by traffic forecaster Bison Futé - with 705km of traffic jams recorded, as holidaymakers from July (“Julliettistes”) cross over with those of August (“Aoûtiens”) - Sunday has been deemed slightly less arduous, on “orange” alert only.

The heat has also had other consequences: ozone pollution in major cities has risen above recommended levels numerous times, including in Paris and Ile-de-France, as well as in Bourgogne, the Rhône valley, and in Gironde.

Two nuclear reactors in Saint-Alban in Isère, one in Bugey in the Ain, and another in Fessenheim in the Haut-Rhin were turned off on Friday and Saturday, in a bid to stop temperatures rising further in the Rhône.

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