Heatwave alert to stop 2003 crisis recurring

17th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 16, 2006 (AFP) - Wide areas of France, sweltering in a heatwave, went on high alert Sunday, with memories still strong of a 2003 catastrophe when thousands died, sparking criticism of perceived deficiencies in the way the authorities dealt with the crisis.

PARIS, July 16, 2006 (AFP) - Wide areas of France, sweltering in a heatwave, went on high alert Sunday, with memories still strong of a 2003 catastrophe when thousands died, sparking criticism of perceived deficiencies in the way the authorities dealt with the crisis.

Twenty-one regions, covering about a quarter of the country, were put on orange alert - stage three on a scale of one to four classifying dangerous weather phenomena.

Areas covered stretched from the region of Aquitaine in the southwest to the Loire, the centre of the country, the Alpes-Maritimes around Nice and the Bouches-du-Rhone region around Marseille in the southeast.

The heat intensity warranted very special vigilance especially for people at health risk or children and old people, especially those living alone, the meteorological office said.

On Sunday afternoon temperatures rose up to 36 degrees Celsius (97 Fahrenheit) in many areas, especially in the western Loire region and the south.

An exceptional heatwave in France during the August of 2003 with temperatures as high as 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) caused 14,847 deaths, many of the victims old people.

Emergency services were overwhelmed, with hospitals having to leave the dying on stretchers in corridors through lack of space.

The catastrophe revealed failings in the chain of political decision-making, with heavily compartmentalised government departments unable to anticipate or properly appraise crisis situations.

The main government members with responsibility for dealing with the crisis were out of Paris at the time. President Jacques Chirac came under criticism for failing to break off a vacation in Canada promptly.

The latest heatwave was expected to continue and even get worse this week, forecasters said, with temperatures as high as 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) in the southwest and centre-west.

Nights were expected to be tough too, with temperatures unlikely to drop below 20 degrees (68 Fahrenheit).

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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