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WEATHER

Storms leave 220,000 homes without electricity in south west France

At least 220,000 homes were without power in southwestern France on Friday after powerful winds swept across Atlantic coastal regions overnight, at times gusting to 140 km/h, officials said.

Storms leave 220,000 homes without electricity in south west France
Photo: AFP

Rescue services said four people had been injured – one of whom later died – when trees fell on their vehicles during the storms, and traffic was snarled due to trees and other debris on roads and highways.

Grid operator Enedis said at one point during the night some 400,000 homes were without power, after 14 departments were placed on high wind and flooding alerts.

 

Eight departments, mainly in the Occitanie region closer to the Mediterranean, as well as the island of Corsica were still on alert Friday, according to weather service Meteo France, severely disrupting maritime travel.

Meteo France also warned the winds posed heightened avalanche risks in the Alps over the next 24 hours, in particular in the popular skiing departments of Isere and Savoie.

 

Although the winds are forecast to ease later Friday, Meteo France said it expected them to intensify again into the weekend.

In the popular surfing towns of Biarritz and Anglet, authorities closed beaches Friday on expectations of dangerous waves during the afternoon high tide.

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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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