Heatwave claimed 1,500 lives, says French minister

Updated September 09, 2019

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Toll significantly lower than the disastrous summer of 2003, when an estimated 15,000 people died during an heatwave. — AFP/File
Toll significantly lower than the disastrous summer of 2003, when an estimated 15,000 people died during an heatwave. — AFP/File

PARIS: Two heatwaves that hit France this summer claimed more than 1,500 more lives, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said on Sunday.

But that toll was significantly lower than the disastrous summer of 2003, when an estimated 15,000 people died during an August heatwave.

“We have 1,500 deaths recorded more than the average for these months, so that’s 10 times fewer deaths than the 2003 heatwave,” Buzyn told French radio.

This year’s heatwaves hit France in June and July, with a new record temperature of 46 degrees Celsius (114.8 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded in the south on June 28.

While the 2003 heatwave lasted 20 days in all, this year’s lasted for 18, in two separate heatwaves, the second covering a large part of France, Buzyn added.

The authorities’ preventive measures helped keep the death rate well below the high numbers experienced in 2003, she added.

The 2003 heatwave was the deadliest recorded in France, with the central and Paris regions hardest hit.Agnes Buzyn said there were over 1,000 more deaths that the annual average for the time of the year, and half of those were aged over 75. She said there were 18 days of recorded heat wave in France this year during June and July.

She noted, however, that it represented many fewer deaths than the scorching heat wave in 2003 that claimed 15,000 lives.

She said: “We have succeeded thanks to prevention, thanks to workable messages the French population heeded to reduce fatalities by a factor of 10.”The highest temperature in France this summer was 46 degrees Celsius on June 28 at Verargues in the south of France.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2019