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19 French départements on red level alert for heat as temperatures soar

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AFP/The Local France - [email protected]
19 French départements on red level alert for heat as temperatures soar
A runner jogs past a city sign indicating a heatwave in Lyon. Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP

Around a quarter of France is on the highest level alert for heat as it braces for temperatures exceeding 40C in some parts of the country on Wednesday.

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Temperatures are expected Wednesday, with the most intense heat in the southern parts of the country where the mercury is already pushing past 40C.

The dôme de chaleur (heat dome) has been stuck over France since last week, bringing very high temperatures that prompted the prime minister to hold a crisis meeting and launch the emergency heatwave hotline.

On Monday France recorded its hottest ever late-summer day - the highest average temperature ever recorded after August 15th. 

Météo France has placed 19 département on red alert - the highest alert level which indicates a potential risk to life - for heat.

They are; Drôme, Ardèche, Rhône, Haute-Loire, Ain, Loire, Isère, Lozère, Gard, Vaucluse, Hérault, Aveyron, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Aude, Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, Haute-Garonne and Gers. 

A further 37 of France's 96 mainland départements - plus the microstate of Andorra - are on orange alert.

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Only the north of the country is spared the exceptional temperatures, with the mercury predicted to top 40C across the south.

The temperature is predicted to begin falling on Thursday, with storms forecast for much of the country over the weekend.

READ ALSO French government advice for staying cool in a heatwave

The heatwave is "intense and long-lasting" and "particularly late in the season," it added.

In addition to the sustained high temperatures, areas in the south have seen repeated 'tropical nights' where the temperature does not fall below 20C, making it hard to sleep and exacerbating heat stress, especially in the elderly.

Hospitals in the south of France said they had begun to see an increase in emergency admissions of people with heat-related illnesses. 

After a suffocating summer of record temperatures and forest fires in 2022, France has for the most part experienced a typical holiday period this year, escaping the intense heatwave that scorched southern Europe in July.

The current high temperatures are the hottest of the season, Meteo France said.

Around 360 firefighters are currently battling a fire near the village of Chanousse in southeast France, according to the Association for the Prevention and Reporting of Forest Fires.

It has consumed around 150 hectares (nearly 370 acres) of forest. France's wildfire forecasting system, Météo des Forêts, has placed six départements along the Mediterranean coast in the south-eastern part of the country on 'orange' (elevated) alert for possible fires.

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