12 French departments on ‘red alert’ for heatwaves, PM announces

It concerns departments in the south and south-west of the country. 25 other departments are on orange alert

Published Last updated

Twelve French departments have been placed on red alert for heatwaves, French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne announced today (June 16).

The 12 departments are:

Charente, Charente-Maritime, Haute-Garonne, Lot-et-Garonne, Tarn-et-Garonne, Gers, Gironde, Landes, Tarn, Deux-Sèvres, Vendée and Vienne.

There are also 25 departments on orange alert for heatwaves.

Ms Borne told people to be careful, stay hydrated, look after their loved ones and to call emergency services on the number 15 if necessary.

France's ministry of education also stated that school pupils in primary or collège level do not need to go to school on Friday (June 17) in the 12 departments where the red alert has been declared.

The peak of the current heatwave is expected to arrive on Saturday.

Read more: Temperatures reach 40C in France but set to get even hotter

Read more: South-west France sizzles: 23 departments on ‘orange’ heatwave alert

What is 'red alert'?

This is the fourth time that a red alert for heatwaves has been declared, Météo-France states, after being signalled in June 2019, July 2019 and August 2020.

Red alert means that there is an extreme heatwave and that people should be extremely careful.

This level is announced only during exceptional, very intense and long-lasting heatwaves.

During a red-alert heatwave, there are often droughts, issues with the supply of drinking water, high demand for hospitals and / or funeral homes become overrun, there are power cuts and forest fires, working hours or practices are adjusted, etc.

The government will set up an inter-ministerial crisis group to help manage the heatwave.

Special provisions will be made to take care of vulnerable people, including homeless people and those in retirement homes.

The alert system is part of France’s annual ‘plan canicule’, a system set up to manage heatwaves.

Read more: Explainer: France’s ‘heatwave plan’ and how it may affect residents

Starting from June 1 every year, all French departments are automatically placed on green alert for heatwaves. This means that there are no particular concerns.

From this point, national and local relevant authorities start to ensure that they are prepared for heatwaves. Simultaneously, Météo-France begins its surveillance of heatwaves and a national helpline to provide information is opened.

The number is 0800 06 66 66 and is open Monday to Saturday, 09:00 to 21:00. It is free to call from landlines while your usual mobile costs apply.

Remarkable heatwave

Météo-France describes this current heatwave as “remarkable” for how early in the year it is, saying that it could become the earliest heatwave in France measured on a national level since recordings began in 1947.

The previous earliest heatwave was between June 18 and 22, 2017.

Temperatures are not expected to fall until Sunday (June 19) after a storm that will begin over the Atlantic coast.

Related articles

How hot will France’s heatwave be and how long will it last?