Thirty-seven departments, or a third of the country, in red or orange vigilance and 18 million people concerned: the heat wave of unprecedented precocity is growing in France, with one of the temperature peaks expected on Friday and Saturday. In Montjean-sur-Loire, the effects of the intense heat are already being felt: the banks of the Loire have dried up.
“This is the earliest heat wave ever recorded in France” since 1947, says Matthieu Sorel, climatologist at Météo-France. “Many monthly or even absolute records (…) should be broken in several regions”, he said, seeing a “marker of climate change”.
In Montjean-sur-Loire, in Maine-et-Loire, the effects of the heat are impressive. The images show the banks of the Loire dry. The cracked earth has replaced the few areas of water that usually persist in places. Because this place is often faced with drought problems. In previous years, the mayor of the city had repeatedly asked residents to limit their water consumption, given the drop in groundwater levels in the region.
40 degrees yesterday
Thursday in the Hérault, in Saint-Jean-de-Minervois, the thermometer climbed to 40°C: a record of precocity for metropolitan France excluding Corsica, according to Météo-France.
Red vigilance, the highest level of “national heat wave plan”, will start Friday from 2 p.m. in 12 departments located in the south-west and the Atlantic coast: Charente, Charente-Maritime, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, Deux-Sèvres, Tarn, Tarn- et-Garonne, Vendée and Vienne.
Météo-France has also extended orange vigilance to a total of 25 departments, from Aude in the south of the country, to the center and Morbihan in the northwest.
The heat will increase on Friday across the country, and 40°C will be frequently reached or even exceeded over a large south-west quarter, according to Météo-France. And Saturday, “absolute records could then fall” on the axis Landes, Poitou-Charentes, Vendée.
Disturbed Occitanie road
This is the fourth time – and the earliest in the season – that heat wave red vigilance has been used since the system was put in place after the lessons learned from the historic heat wave of 2003 which killed more than 15,000 people in France. The Ministry of Health has activated a free Canicule info service number (08.00.06.66.66) in order to answer questions and give advice, and that of Education has announced that schoolchildren and college students from the 12 departments in red will be able to stay home on Friday.
In the Tarn, the prefecture announced the cancellation on Friday of the start of the second stage of the Route d’Occitanie which was to take place in Graulhet. “We are bringing the race back to the Aveyron department”, in orange vigilance, told AFP Romain Caubin, member of the organization of the cycling race. The stage will thus be greatly shortened, going from 154.6 km to 36 km.
The prefect of Tarn also canceled the giant screen broadcast in Castres of the semi-final of the Top 14 Castres-Toulouse, held Friday in Nice.
Decisions strongly criticized by the president of the Tarn department Christophe Ramond and the mayor of Castres Pascal Bugis who expressed their respective dissatisfaction.
In Gironde, the prefect announced that she was going to ban “all public events outdoors or in non-air-conditioned premises“from Friday 2:00 p.m., specifying that the prefectures of the six other departments of New Aquitaine placed in red vigilance should take the same measure. Further north, in Vendée, the prefecture has lifted the confinement measures for poultry following the bird flu epizootic.
In Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin, road users are asked to reduce their speed by 20 km/h, especially on motorways, due to an episode of ozone pollution linked to the heat wave.
Pool and salsa
Thursday in Toulouse, where the thermometer reached 39°C in the afternoon, the inhabitants still took advantage of outdoor activities. At the Alfred-Nakache swimming pool, exceptionally open until 8:30 p.m. due to the heat, Leïla Kabou watches her two sons, aged seven and 15, swim. “There was a big heat wave in 2003, but not like this“, she asserts.
And in the evening, on the banks of the Garonne, thousands of people took part in the Rio Loco festival, which runs until Sunday. Despite the breeze coming from the river, the fans were in order in front of the various stages to listen to the Spaniard Rodrigo Cuevas or the Uruguayan Jorge Drexler, and dance salsa with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra.
But in retirement homes, the situation of the elderly is of particular concern and nursing homes are adapting with watering of facades, ice cubes in drinks, fans and prolonged sequences in air-conditioned rooms.
“We are even more vigilant than usual with the elders. It’s hard for them. Often, they are alone, physically diminished, with a loss of autonomy”testifies Sarah Jalabert, home nurse in the Tarn.
With the heat, air quality has also deteriorated in Ile-de-France as well as in several departments of Occitanie, Paca and Hauts-de-France.
For their part, the firefighters on alert watch for the outbreak of fire, favored by the heat and the drying of the vegetation.
In addition, air conditioners and fans are driving up electricity consumption, forcing France to import, according to RTE.