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Heatwave advice: France reacts to 45°C red alert

Four departments are on red heatwave alert in France today (June 28) for the first time ever, with up to 45°C expected - as heat records are broken, schools close, and travel is postponed due to heat.

The Hérault, Gard, Vaucluse and the Bouches-du-Rhône are all on red alert, with temperatures expected to reach 42-25°C. Météo France has also placed 76 other departments on orange alert.

Record-breaking heat

A map has been produced showing areas in France that have broken temperature records in the past two days, including for the month of June, and absolute all-time records.

Residents are advised to stay inside, drink water even if you do not feel thirsty, avoid physical exercise,  avoid alcohol, and to wet your skin with cold water regularly. Any symptoms such as severe headaches, dizziness or cramps may require medical intervention, on the numbers 15 or 112.

More than 4,000 schools have been closed today, prime minister Edouard Philippe has said.

Any school trips or sporting events will also be postponed, except if they are taking place in a cool space. For schools that are still open, families are now permitted to keep their children home from school once they have let the school know, health minister Agnès Buzyn has confirmed.

Vulnerable people at risk

Residents are also warned to check on their neighbours and family members. A new survey has found that almost half of the French public (48%) is worried about the effect the extreme heat could have on their vulnerable relatives, including parents and grandparents.

Over half of people aged 35-49 said they were worried.

Speaking to news network France Info, Dr Damien Mascret said: “When it is very hot, older people can lose water very quickly. It is a precarious balance, and it can be affected by a change of a few degrees. If an older person gets out of their chair quickly, the balance can be off, and you may risk a fall."

Many local communes have put their own safeguarding protocols in place, including extending the opening hours of cool public spaces - such as air conditioned sports halls - and permitting vulnerable members of the public to enter.

Some have laid on shuttle services to take vulnerable people away from their homes to cooler spaces.


Outdoors activity warnings

Even for healthy people, doing exercise outside in such heat can be dangerous, and cause symptoms such as dizziness, and even a heart attack, said Dr Mascret.

Ms Buzyn has warned that people who “have been going for a run” between the hours of 12h and 14h especially, are “irresponsible”.

Dr Mascret added that even healthy, young people should be extremely careful when using bodies of water - such as pools, lakes, or the sea - to cool off, with several deaths linked to thermal shock in recent days.

He said: “When it is hot, the vessels near your skin are dilated, so if you quickly enter into water, they are going to contract. This brings a risk of thermal shock, which can cause you to lose consciousness and run the risk of drowning.”

Pets in hot cars

Pets also risk difficulties in the heat, with authorities warning that dogs can die in minutes if left in hot cars, even with the windows left slightly open.

Anyone who sees a pet left in a car should call emergency services, according to animal welfare group 30 Millions d’Amis.

If services cannot arrive quickly and the animal is in distress, you are legally permitted to try to open the vehicle in question or to break a window - but you are advised to do so in the presence of a police officer, gendarme, or several members of the public to act as witnesses, preferably with someone filming or taking photos.

This is to show proof that you were acting to save an animal in distress, and may help you to avoid charges for damaging property that does not belong to you.

Transport precautions

Train network SNCF has warned travellers not to use any services - including on TGVs and  Intercités - in the departments on red alert until at least Sunday June 30. It has also offered free ticket exchanges or refunds for any passengers who wish to cancel or postpone their travel plans.

Several road and driving restrictions continue to be in place in major cities and towns, including in Paris and Lyon. Drivers are advised to check their local restrictions before starting their journey.

Alert expected to stay in place

The red alert warning is expected to be in place until Saturday June 29 at 21h at the earliest, according to Météo France.

The forecaster said: “Red alert is not only about temperature, it is also about checking if there are already consequences, such as overcrowding at hospitals. On red alert, serious health problems can occur for anyone in the country, including in people with good health.”

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