- Temperatures set to reach record 45C
- 4,000 school closures
- Four departments in the south still on red alert
- Traffic restrictions due to heatwave-related pollution spike
French meteorologists have forecast temperatures that may exceed 45C on Friday, a high never seen in mainland France.
The current record was set in August 2003 in the southern region of Montpellier and Nimes, when the thermometer hit 44.1C.
“To beat this record so early in the year would be exceptional,” said meteorologist Christelle Robert.
The average maximum temperature recorded Wednesday in France of 34.9C was already a record for the month of June, said state weather forecaster Meteo
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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.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Friday morning that a total of 4,000 schools in France would be closed on Friday due to the extreme heat.
In four departments in the south of France (Herault, Gard, Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhone) the level of alert was raised from orange to red on Thursday, with the alerts still in place on Friday morning.
The move marks the first time since the warning system was brought in in 2004 that parts of the country have been on red alert for the a heatwave, called a canicule in French.
Meanwhile a further 76 departments were on orange alert – the second highest warning – for the heat.
In Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg, authorities have banned the most-polluting cars from the roads.
In the French capital, only vehicles registered 0, 1 or 2, as well as people with electric vehicles, will be permitted to drive. While in Marseille and Strasbourg, only vehicles registered 0-3 will be allowed on the roads.
Several cities in France use the Crit'Air system. The sticker scheme assigns a number from 1 to 5 to all vehicles, based on how polluting they are. Level 5 vehicles have already been banned from central Paris on weekdays and level 4 – which mostly covers older models of diesel cars – will be banned from Paris from July 1st.
Residents of the French city of Grenoble were unable to use two municipal swimming pools despite the record temperatures, due to a row sparked by use of the full-body 'burkini' swimsuit.
Lifeguards had asked for the shutdown after Muslim women clad in burkinis had gone to swim in defiance of a municipal ban, said the local mayor…..
French President Emmanuel Macron warned that such extreme weather is likely to become more frequent as a result of global warming.
“We will need to change our set-up, our way of working, build differently,” he said, stressing a necessary “adaption of society and its habits.”
French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn on Thursday said people had to be prepared for the peak of the heatwave and expressed irritation that some appeared not to be listening to advice.
She complained about parents leaving their children in the car and joggers exercising in the midday heat.
On Thursday the heat led to a particularly uncomfortable journey for passengers on one train heading from Paris to Clermont-Ferrand.
The train passengers spent the night on the train, without air conditioning, water and the toilets were out of order, after the train was delayed.
“We went out to get some fresh air because it was almost 30C in the carriage and we stayed outside for about six hours. It was really a nightmare night,” one passenger called Sophie told the French press.
So, what next?
Anyone struggling in the heat may be pleased to know that the current heatwave is expected to come to an end on Sunday for most of the country, except the south east of France where it is forecast to last until Wednesday.
Storms are expected to hit the French capital on Wednesday and Thursday.