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France breaks all-time heat records as heatwave peaks

All-time heat records have been broken across France, with a peak of 43.6°C yesterday (Thursday July 25) and Paris recording its hottest ever day.

Wildfires took hold in some areas due to the heat, but thunderstorms and cooler temperatures are forecast today (Friday July 26).

Forecaster Météo France confirmed that all-time heat records had been broken in more than 50 towns.

This includes Saint-Maur-des-Fossés (Val-de-Marne), with the highest record of the day at 43.6 °C, breaking the previous record of 42.2°C from August 6, 2003.

Most of the broken records date from the heatwave of 2003, but some go as far back as 1947, including Paris, which reached 42.6°C yesterday, compared to 40.4°C on July 28, 1947.

Lille saw the greatest leap in temperature compared to its previous record, with 41.5 °C recorded this week, compared to 37.6°C seen in July 27 2018; a rise of 3.9°C.

Other notable highs included 43.5°C at the country’s hottest weather station, in Issoudun (Indre, Centre-Val de Loire); 42.6°C in Chablis (Yonne, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), breaking the previous record of 41.8°C from August 7, 2003; and 41.3°C in Rouen (Seine-Maritime, Normandy), surpassing the record of 38.1°C from August 11, 2003.

A list of the records released by Météo France can be seen here.


Heatwave fires

The intense heat contributed to several wildfires across the country - in the Eure, Marne and the Dordogne departments - with thousands of hectares burned.

In the Eure, fire took hold in 24 different places - of which five severely - burning 1,500 hectares. More than 550 firefighters were mobilised, with 23 injured due to heat stroke or light burns.

This was a record burning for the Eure, with authorities saying that usually no more than 200-300 hectares are affected each year.

In the Marne, 700 hectares were destroyed, with 338 firefighters mobilised to control the blaze. More than 40 firefighters from the Doubs and Bas-Rhin departments are still on alert in the Marne today, as a precaution.

In the Dordogne, 25 hectares of forest and farmland were burned after a tractor pulling a haymaker caught fire due to the heat (41°C). The drought and wind meant the flames spread quickly, with 80 firefighters mobilised on-site, plus 40 engines and two Canadair planes.

Some residents and farmers were evacuated as a precaution, but no-one was hurt. The area remains under surveillance.

Storms as temperatures drop

After the peak of the heatwave yesterday, 31 departments - mainly in the east of France - remain on orange heatwave alert (the second-most severe level), but seven are now also on alert for thunderstorms.

These are Nièvre, Allier, Puy-de-Dôme, Cantal, Haute-Loire, Loire, and Saône-et-Loire.

Temperatures have cooled significantly across much of the country, with towns and cities including Paris and Lille having lifted their traffic restrictions - designed to reduce pollution during hot weather - today (Friday July 26).

A statement from Météo France said: “[The heatwave end] will see strong local thunderstorms, with potential hail, Friday in the west, and towards the east on Saturday. We will lose around 15°C generally.”

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