France Suffers In Historic Heatwave
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
France has been blazing this week. It recorded its highest temperature ever on Friday, 113 degrees Fahrenheit in southern France. But temperature records have been rising all over the country, including in Deauville, Normandy, where the seagulls are cawing and NPR's Scott Simon is with his family. And we decided to interrupt his vacation to get an update.
SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: Morning, Lulu. The seagulls say hello too.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. It is cooler there now, isn't it?
SIMON: Oh, yes, it's 63 as we're speaking now. So that's a 33-degree drop from what it was just a few hours ago last night.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But what's the week been like?
SIMON: You know, hard for people in a country that's not used to heat and doesn't have much air conditioning. The five hottest summers here since 1500 have been - all been since 2000. So you have - do have more people here asking, if I could put it this way, does a chateau have to fall on your head to see that the earth, France included, is getting hotter?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah (laughter) I know you were in Paris during the 2003 heatwave. And that left 15,000 people dead according to estimates. And it's still considered a marker in French history.
SIMON: Yeah, it's a - you know, it's a staggering number and still regarded here as a national disgrace, personally and politically, that so many people could die while the country looked on. Now, in recent years, cities have been very quick to declare heat emergencies. Four thousand schools here were closed this week. Cooling rooms opened in city buildings, extended hours in public parks and public pools. The government called on citizens to check on neighbors, especially elderly people living alone.
In the days to come, we may learn of more heat-related deaths, but the ones reported in France so far, which seem to be four, ironically seem to be drowning deaths from people who jumped into pools after hours for relief.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are there any indications that this week's heat wave has sounded an alarm bell for people in France?
SIMON: You know, I'll cautiously say yes because it's harder to see this as exceptional when it keeps happening year after year. Nicolas Hulot, the former environmental transition minister, is in the news today saying the heat should remind everyone in France that much of the immigration that's so controversial here is set in motion by global warming, famines and extreme weather. And President Macron says this weekend we all need to change our setup or way of working, build differently and adapt our society.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Scott Simon in Deauville, Normandy, France.
Thank you so much, Scott.
SIMON: Pleasure to be with you, Lulu.
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