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WEATHER

Réunion lashed by fierce cyclone

Nearly 70,000 homes were left without electricity Thursday as a cyclone lashed the French Indian Ocean island of Réunion.

Winds of up to 180 kilometres per hour (110 miles per hour) and torrential rain caused extensive damage to the electricity network after cyclone Dumile passed within 90 kilometres of the island's west coast at around 0900 GMT.

EDF, the electricity supplier, said power to 68,000 homes had been cut.

An unspecified number of homes were also without water and the storm did extensive damage to avocado and other crops.

Jean-Luc Marx, the island's prefect, said 170 people had sought shelter in reception centres set up to house anyone concerned for their safety.

One fireman was slightly injured during an evacuation but otherwise no casualties were reported.

A red alert requiring all residents to stay inside remained in force in the early evening, although it was ignored by several thrill-seekers who received €135 ($177) fines for defying the order to witness the raging sea at first hand.

The cyclone was the first to hit Réunion since February 2007, when two people were swept to their deaths in an overflowing river.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

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.

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