The record for the hottest temperature ever in France was broken three times on Friday within a matter of hours.
First the town of Carpentras (see map) in the Vaucluse department of the south east France recorded a temperature of 44.3C – an all-time record for France. Or at least it was for around an hour or so.
The town was deserted, with cafe owners contemplating empty terraces which would normally be packed.
“We have never seen this!” one exclaimed.
It had beaten the previous hottest temperature which was 44.1C, recorded in Saint-Christol-lès-Alès et Conqueyrac, also in the south east near Avignon.
But then it was the turn of Villevieille (see map below) in the Gard department to hit the headlines when it became the first town ever in France to record a temperature above 45C. The mercury hit 45.1C at 14.59 according to Météo France and may yet rise even further.
But at 4.20pm the temperature of 45.9C (115 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded in Gallargues-le-Montueux, near Montpellier in the same department of Gard.
“This is historic,” said Météo-France meteorologist Etienne Kapikian.
The new record makes France just the seventh European country to have recorded a plus 45-degree temperature, along with Bulgaria, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece and North Macedonia, Meteo France said.
The Gard and Vaucluse departments are two of four areas placed on red alert with the public warned to take the upmost care.
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The previous record had stood since August 12 2003, the middle of the last major heatwave that gripped France, in which 15,000 people died.
French weather forecasters had predicted that a record could be broken on Friday, and the average maximum temperature recorded on Wednesday in France of 34.9C was already a record for the month of June, said state weather forecaster Meteo France.
Meteo-France forecaster Etienne Kapikian said it was “very probable” that the record would be beaten again on Friday as it was still relatively early in the day.
“(The temperature) will continue to climb and, in some places, we could pass 44C,” he said.
At least fourteen French towns have already recorded their hottest ever temperature, while dozens of others have set records for June.
Many local authorities around the country have advised parents to keep their children at home and thousands of schools around the country were closed on Friday.