“This is the earliest heat wave ever recorded in France“since 1947, according to Matthieu Sorel, climatologist at Météo-France, seeing a “climate change marker“.
And it’s not over: Météo-France warns that “Saturday afternoon, the heat will increase further“in the west of the country and”absolute records could then fall“.
Records for the month of June were already broken on Friday in at least 13 municipalities, with in particular 40.4°C in Carcassonne, in the south of France.
The multiplication of heat waves in Europe is a direct consequence of global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions increase the strength, duration and rate of repetition of heat waves, scientists say.
In France, the heat wave is spreading to almost the entire country and 14 departments in the south-west have been placed on red alert. Schoolchildren and college students in these areas were able to stay at home on Friday.
– “Hospital obviously saturated“-
“We are in a very early heatwave episode, a strong episode that lasts a little longer than expected“, declared the French Minister of Health Brigitte Bourguignon, during a trip to a retirement home in the south-west, adding that “the hospital is obviously saturated, but meets the demand“.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne insisted on the instructions of caution and prevention for vulnerable people.
The public authorities have been particularly vigilant for the past twenty years, learning the lessons of the historic heat wave of 2003 which killed more than 15,000 people in France, especially among the elderly.
In 2015, four heat wave episodes caused an estimated total of 1,700 deaths during the summer, according to a study by the Public Health France health agency published in April 2019.
And the inhabitants change their habits to adapt, like Daniel Toffaloni, 64, a farmer near Elne, in the Pyrénées-Orientales department, bordering Spain.
“I attack at daybreak until 11:30 a.m., and then I can work in the evening, before nightfall“, he underlines. In his greenhouses where he grows tomatoes, the temperature can reach 55°C in the afternoon.
A classic side effect of heat episodes, the concentration of ozone in the air is clearly increasing over a large part of France, according to the official Prev’Air bulletin published on Friday.
– Evacuations in Spain –
In Spain, firefighters continued to fight several fires on Friday across the country, hit by an exceptional heat wave for almost a week, with temperatures sometimes exceeding forty degrees.
More than 3,000 people were evacuated from the Puy du Fou Spain amusement park, in the center of the country, due to a violent fire near the site.
In total, “2,500 visitors and 700 employees” as well as “200 birds and 55 horses“were evacuated but no one was injured or even”put in danger“, according to the management of the park.
The most devastating fire, fanned by “changing winds“direction and”the heat“, burned nearly 9,000 hectares in the Sierra de la Culebra (northwest), according to the regional authorities of Castile and Leon.
More than 200 residents of this mountainous area near the border with Portugal had to be evacuated as the flames spread, they added.
In the northeast of the country, hundreds of firefighters were still battling several other fires in Catalonia during the “most complicated day of this episode in terms of weather“, according to them.
A fire that broke out near Baldomar, in the province of Lérida, destroyed about 1,000 hectares of forest, according to the authorities. In the neighboring region of Aragon, at least 1,200 hectares were burned by a fire in the municipality of Nonaspe, the prefecture said.
In northern Italy, Lombardy is preparing to declare a state of emergency in the face of a record drought threatening crops and water is already rationed in several towns in the Po Plain. This region, which is home to d important crops, is facing its worst drought in 70 years.
– Swiss glaciers –
In Switzerland, the heat wave will reach its peak over the weekend, with temperatures of up to 36 degrees in Sion (south-west), at the foot of the Alps, on Saturday according to MeteoSwiss – a level, however, lower than the temperature record for month of June, which dates back to 1947, when the mercury was 36.9 degrees in Basel.
Swiss glaciers will also experience unusual, but not unprecedented, temperatures.
The United Nations (UN) called on Friday to “act now“against drought and desertification in order to avoid”human disasters“.
“It’s time to act: every action counts“, said the executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Ibrahim Thiaw, during a conference in Madrid on the occasion of the world day to combat drought.