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CLIMATE CRISIS

Thunderstorms expected around contained French wildfire

French firefighters were keeping a wary eye on a huge blaze that appeared to be contained in the country's southwest, with thunderstorms and strong wind gusts expected in the area overnight.

Firefighters at work in southern France to contain a wildfire.
Firefighters at work in southern France earlier in the week. Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP

The 40-kilometre (25-mile) fire front in the Gironde and Landes departments around Bordeaux “did not significantly progress overnight. Firefighters are working on its periphery,” police said in a statement.

But officials said it was premature to say that the blaze — which has already reignited once — was under control.

“We remain vigilant” because “while we can’t see huge flames, the fire continues to consume vegetation and soil,” Arnaud Mendousse, lieutenant colonel of Gironde fire and rescue, told AFP.
 
Weather forecasters are expecting thunderstorms with wind gusts of up to 60 kilometres an hour in the region in the evening.
 
The wind “could reignite the fire” that “is in a state of pause,” Menousse warned.
 
EU members including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania have pledged reinforcements totalling 361 firefighters to join the roughly 1,100 French ones on the ground, along with several water-bombing planes from the European Union fleet.
 
 
Most of the reinforcements had arrived on the ground, with the last 146 firefighters from Poland expected later on Saturday.
 
France has been buffeted this summer by an historic drought that has forced water use restrictions nationwide, as well as a series of heatwaves that experts say are being driven by climate change.
 
The blaze near Bordeaux erupted in July — the driest month seen in France since 1961 — destroying 14,000 hectares and forcing thousands of people to evacuate before it was contained.
 
But it continued to smoulder in the tinder-dry pine forests and peat-rich soil.
 
Officials suspect arson may have played a role in the latest flare-up, which has burned 7,400 hectares (18,000 acres) since Tuesday.
 
Fires in France in 2022 have ravaged an area three times the annual average over the past 10 years, with blazes also active in the Alpine Jura, Isere and Ardeche regions this week.
 
European Copernicus satellite data showed more carbon dioxide greenhouse gas — over one million tonnes — had been released from 2022’s forest fires in France than in any summer since records began in 2003.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Paris officials to run emergency exercise simulating a 50C day in the city

As the climate crisis pushes temperatures ever higher, officials in Paris are preparing a simulation of the day when the mercury tops 50C, in order to prepare the city's emergency response.

Paris officials to run emergency exercise simulating a 50C day in the city

This simulation, which was announced on Wednesday, is set to take place in October 2023, and it would plunge two parts of one arrondissement (which has not yet been decided) into the fictitious scenario to test the city’s capacity to respond to such a crisis. 

The current temperature record in Paris is 42.6C, which was set during the heatwave of 2019, but experts predict that the record is unlikely to remain unbroken for much longer.  

According to Deputy Mayor of Paris, Penelope Komitès, the city wants to be able to anticipate the next disaster.

“[Paris] has withstood various crises in recent years,” she said to French daily Le Parisien. The public official referenced past disasters, such as the flood of the Seine in 2018, Notre-Dame catching on fire, along with widespread protests and social movements.

“What will be the next crisis?” she said.

Public authorities hope to expand upon and move beyond the city’s first “action plan,” which was adopted in 2017.

The heatwave simulation would allow the city to test its emergency response capacity, namely deployment of cool rooms, shaded areas and other measures. It would also allow public officials to gauge and predict the reactions of Parisians amid a disastrous heatwave of 50C. 

READ MORE: ‘Over 40C’: What will summers in Paris be like in future?

“We have survived crises, but they can happen again,” Komitès said to Le Parisien. Her goal is not for the simulation to provoke anxiety, but instead to prepare the city to mobilise in such an event. 

According to RTL, on Wednesday, the greater Paris region also presented its plan to adapt the community “to the effects of climate change”.

Valérie Pécresse, the regional representative, referenced plans for “1,000 fountains” and the creation of “a network of climate shelters.”

Additionally, the region has set a target of increasing its green space by 5,000 hectares by 2030. The targets of this plan would include priority urban spaces: schoolyards, parking lots, squares, as well as cemeteries.

In 2003, the country suffered a historic heatwave that resulted in at least 14,000 heat-related deaths. Since then, France and its cities have begun adapting to rising temperatures by working to increase green space, provide ‘heat

An analysis from the BBC in 2021 found that “the number of extremely hot days every year when the temperature reaches 50C has doubled since the 1980s.”

READ MORE: Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

This will not be the first simulation activity to anticipate or help the public become aware of rising temperatures. 

In 2014, meteorologist Evelyne Dhéliat gave a ‘fake forecast’ pretending that the year was 2050. The temperatures on her map however, ended up being eerily close to those France has seen regularly since 2019.

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