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WEATHER

Flood warnings issued for central France

Six departments in the centre and east of France were placed on flood alert on Thursday with heavy rains and severe storms forecast for throughout the night.

Flood warnings issued for central France
Flood warnings have been issued for parts of central France. File Photo: Garden State Hiker

Residents in the Ain, Cote-d’Or, Isère, Loire, Rhône et Saône-et-Loire have been put on Orange alert – the second highest level of weather warning – by France’s meteorological service Metéo France.

On Thursday afternoon the service forecast heavy rain and localised storms that could cause flooding because of the already high water levels and saturation of the ground.

“Heavy rain and occasional storms are forecast for the Rhône Valley area overnight Thursday and into Friday,” a statement from Méteo France said.

It has issued warnings over flash floods as well likely heavy traffic on secondary roads as well as disruption to train services. It advises against people going out walking in areas affected by flooding.

The warnings come after a 9-year-old boy was swept away in a swollen river in the Drôme area of France on Thursday afternoon. A rescue operation is still underway to try to find him.

And on Wednesday evening part of a bridge collapsed over the Isere river due to heavy rains and increased water levels cause by snow melt.

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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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