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EXPLAINED: ‘Everyone is at risk’ – What France’s red level heatwave warning means for you

France's weather service Météo France issued red level heatwave warnings for parts of France on Wednesday for only the second time ever. But what does that mean for members of the public?

EXPLAINED: 'Everyone is at risk' - What France's red level heatwave warning means for you
Photo: Météo France

Paris, parts of Normandy and much of northern France were put on alerte rouge by Météo France on Wednesday as the extreme heatwave saw temperatures soar towards 40C.

The country's health minister Agnes Buzyn warned that no one was out of risk given the high temperatures and urged people not to take part in any sport.

It was only the second time Méteo France has ever issued red level warnings for a canicule (heatwave) in France. The first time was during June's heatwave when several départements in the south were put on red alert as temperatures reached record levels in the country.

But it is unprecedented for Paris and the north of the country to be on a red alert for a heatwave.

So what does that mean in reality for members of the public?

In general an alerte rouge issued by Météo France, whether for storms or flooding, means the public need to take “absolute vigilance” because “dangerous” weather phenomenon with “exceptional intensity” are forecast.

The public are urged to keep up to date with the news and monitor the forecasts closely.

They are also urged to follow public safety advise strictly.

Météo France said “all of us are threatened, even healthy people”.

It adds: “The danger is greater for seniors, people with chronic illness or mental health issues, people who take regular medication and people who are isolated.”
Those who work outside are told to take care and watch out for the signs of heat stroke, which include: fever over 40C, hot, red and dry skin, headaches, nausea, drowsiness, intense thirst, confusion and convulsions.
Parents are advised to closely observe their children.
The general advice for people is to stay indoors in a cool place during the hottest part of the day. Drink regularly and soak your body in cold water when you get the chance. Avoid going out if possible.
Météo France also issues the following advice.
* In case of discomfort or behavioural problems, call a doctor.
* If you need help call your local town hall.
* If you have elderly, chronically ill or isolated people in your life, check in with them or visit them twice a day. Accompany them to a cool place.
* During the day close shutters, curtains and windows. Ventilate at night.
* Use fan and/or air conditioning if available. Otherwise try to go to a cool or air-conditioned place (such as a supermarket or cinema) for two to three hours a day.
* Wet your body several times a day with a mist, a washcloth or by taking showers or baths.
* Adults and children: drink plenty of water, the elderly: drink 1.5L of water per day and eat normally.
* Do not go out during the hottest hours (11am-9pm).
* If you have to go out wear a hat and light clothing.
* Limit your physical activities.



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Sweltering France posts traffic jam record

France saw a record level of traffic jams on Saturday, with cars stuck in gridlock on roasting roads spanning 820 kilometres during the country's heatwave.

Sweltering France posts traffic jam record
A picture taken on August 8, 2020 near the toll gate of Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines shows cars stuck in traffic jam on the A10 highway: Martin BUREAU / AFP

France's traffic authorities said the peak was reached just after noon, easily beating both last Saturday's record of 760 kilometres (470 miles) and the previous record of 762 kilometres set on August 3 of last year.

The country has been sweltering through a heatwave since Thursday, with temperatures pushing towards 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in several areas.

In the southwest, Brive-la-Gaillarde broke its record with 40.8C on Friday, as did Cognac with 39.8C, while Nantes in the west posted a new record of 39.6C.

No relief is expected until Wednesday, with the soaring temperatures compounding the pressure as the country's coronavirus outbreak worsens, the number of daily infections hitting 2,288 on Friday.

Authorities reminded sweltering citizens that masks must continue to be worn where they have been mandated, despite the heat.

Roland and Helene, retirees in suburban Paris, said they go out in the morning “to get some fresh air,” but then spend the rest of the day hiding in their apartment. “We fear the heat a lot,” Helene said.

French weather forecaster Météo France on Friday upgraded the orange weather warning to red for northern parts of the country as temperatures reached 37C. The red warning means a potential danger to life or health.

Placed on a red warning were Paris and the départements of Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-d'Oise, Val-de-Marne and Yvelines.

The départements of Eure and Seine-Maritime in Normandy were also put on red alert.

Last year was France's hottest on record, and the Meteo France weather agency has warned that global warming could double the number of heatwaves by 2050.