A 12-year-old boy, two elderly people and two homeless men have all died as a result of the cold weather covering France.

"/> A 12-year-old boy, two elderly people and two homeless men have all died as a result of the cold weather covering France.

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Death toll rises to five as chill continues

A 12-year-old boy, two elderly people and two homeless men have all died as a result of the cold weather covering France.

Death toll rises to five as chill continues
Andrew Michaels

The cold weather, which is creating chaos across the continent, is believed to have led to over 300 deaths in the last week around Europe.

A 12-year-old boy died on Saturday when he fell into an icy lake in the eastern Vosges area. The boy was walking with his 11-year-old brother when the accident occurred.

A 56-year-old homeless man froze to death in a tower block on Saturday in a suburb east of Paris. Another homeless man aged 46 was also found dead on Saturday in a squat in the north-east town of Compiègne.

On Friday, two old people suffering from Alzheimers were found dead after they had ventured out without adequate protection.

A surge in electricity demand on Monday evening due to the freezing weather will put strains on the national supply as power demands push the country towards its maximum capacity.

“We are likely to reach a new record for electricity demand on Monday evening,” said Henri Proglio, head of national electricity company EDF.

The Var and Alpes-Maritime regions in the south of the country were at greatest risk of having power cuts, reported BFM TV on Monday morning.

The two departments include the towns of Cannes, Nice, Toulon and Saint-Tropez.

EDF said the region, along with the north-east Brittany area, were both at the extremes of the country’s power grid and had “neither the means of production nor sufficient transport” for the power they might need.

Residents in those areas were being asked to moderate their consumption on Monday evening between 6 and 8pm.

Freezing conditions are expected to continue until at least Wednesday with half the country placed under “orange alert” by the national weather forecaster, Météo France.

An orange alert warns of “dangerous” conditions with special attention needed on roads.

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Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.