12 French departments on “red alert” for heat waves, announces the Prime Minister

Twelve French departments have been placed on red alert for a heat wave, French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne announced today (16 June).

The 12 departments are:

Charente, Charente-Maritime, Haute-Garonne, Lot-et-Garonne, Tarn-et-Garonne, Gers, Gironde, Landes, Tarn, Deux-Sèvres, Vendée and Vienne.

There are also 25 departments in heat wave orange vigilance.

Ms Borne told people to be careful, stay hydrated, take care of loved ones and call emergency services on number 15 if needed.

The French Ministry of Education has also indicated that primary or middle school students do not need to go to school on Friday June 17 in the 12 departments where the red alert has been declared.

The peak of the current heat wave is expected to arrive on Saturday.

Read more: Temperatures reach 40°C in France but are expected to get even hotter

Read more: The south-west of France sizzles: 23 departments on “orange” heat wave alert

What is the “red alert”?

This is the fourth time that a red alert for the heat wave has been declared, specifies Météo-France, after being reported in June 2019, July 2019 and August 2020.

The red alert means there is an extreme heat wave and people should be extremely careful.

This level is only announced during exceptional, very intense and long-lasting heat waves.

During a red alert heat wave, there are often droughts, problems with the supply of drinking water, high demand from hospitals and/or funeral directors which become overwhelmed, there are power cuts and forest fires, work schedules or practices are adjusted, etc.

The government will set up an interministerial crisis group to help manage the heat wave.

Special arrangements will be made to take care of vulnerable people, in particular homeless people and those in retirement homes.

The alert system is part of France’s annual ‘flat heat wave‘, a system put in place to manage heat waves.

Read more: Explained: France’s “heat wave plan” and its potential impact on residents

From June 1 of each year, all French departments are automatically placed on heat wave green alert. This means that there is no particular concern.

From then on, the relevant national and local authorities begin to ensure that they are prepared for heat waves. At the same time, Météo-France began monitoring heat waves and a national information hotline was opened.

The number is 0800 06 66 66 and is open Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It’s free to call from landlines while your normal mobile charges apply.

Remarkable heat wave

Météo-France describes this current heat wave as “remarkable” for its earliness in the year, saying it could become the first heat wave in France measured at national level since records began in 1947.

The first previous heat wave occurred between June 18 and 22, 2017.

Temperatures are not expected to drop until Sunday (June 19) after a storm will start on the Atlantic coast.

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