Much of south-west France on heightened heatwave alert

Maximum temperatures of 39C are expected today. Around 6,500 people – including local residents – have been evacuated as wildfires continue in the area

Seven French departments are under an orange heatwave warning as temperatures are set to rise to nearly 40C today
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Seven French departments have been placed under an orange canicule alert today (July 13) as this week’s heatwave takes hold.

The departments are: Gironde, Tarn-et-Garonne, Lot-et-Garonne, Tarn, Haute-Garonne, Ardèche and Drôme. Several surrounding departments are also on a yellow vigilance warning for heat.

National forecasting service Météo France stated that temperatures were often exceeding 20C in affected areas at 05:00 this morning. This followed an afternoon yesterday where Landes on the southwestern coast saw highs of 39C.

Today, maximum temperatures are expected to sit between 36C and 38C, with some southwestern areas set to reach 39C this afternoon.

France's 'Canicule info service' helpline will be reactivated from 14:00 today to assist people with their queries and concerns. You can call 0800 06 66 66 for free from any landline in France between 09:00 and 19:00. In the case of an emergency, call 15.

This heat is predicted to last at least until Saturday across the southern half of France while northern areas will see a slight drop in temperature.

However, the heat is set to intensify across the whole country on Sunday (July 17).

Further information can be found on the Météo France website.

This week’s heatwave is expected to become an official canicule – which occurs when temperatures are very high during the day and remain above a certain threshold at night – although this cannot yet be confirmed.

The heat has already led to two serious wildfires near Landiras and La Teste-de-Buch in Gironde, where more than 6,500 people have been evacuated – including the residents of five hamlets around Guillos to the south of Bordeaux.

Nearly 1,400 hectares of land have been burnt, and Gironde is also on an orange weather alert for wildfires.

Hundreds of firefighters were mobilised in the area yesterday, but the departmental fire service has said that the fire is moving “over difficult terrain,” with a “swirling wind”.

Several departments have cancelled summer events due to the weather, and various towns across France have decided to call off their Fête nationale fireworks displays because of the wildfire risk. It is worth checking with your local authority whether such attractions will still be taking place.

Météo France has said that this heatwave – which comes a month after the first of the year – is a reflection of climate change, which is going to bring “hotter and hotter” summers, “where 35C will be the norm”.

Do I need to take any action?

If you live in a department on orange alert for heat, you should:

  • Drink water several times a day
  • Eat normally
  • Spray your skin with water or take warm showers or baths to keep cool
  • Avoid going out between 11:00 and 21:00
  • Put on a hat and lightweight clothes if you do have to go out
  • Try to stay in a cool space at the hottest points in the day
  • Limit sporting or other physical activities
  • Close your windows, curtains and shutters during the day and open them at night
  • Check on elderly or vulnerable relatives and friends
  • Call a doctor if you feel unwell
  • You can also call your mairie if you need help

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