in France over plight of elderly in searing summer heat
August 11, 2003
(AFP) - As a punishing heat wave dragged into its second week in France,
controversy erupted over the number of deaths attributable to the summer
heat, with a top emergency doctor warning of an imminent disaster.
Pelloux, head of France's association of emergency doctors, on Sunday
claimed that at least 50 people had died of heat-related illnesses in
Paris in recent days, adding: "The weakest are dropping like
doctor, Patrick Teissiere, said Monday he feared Pelloux's estimate was
"lower than the reality," adding that the number of emergency
patients in the Paris area had doubled in the past week as compared with
popular daily Le Parisien on Monday quoted medical sources as saying
hundreds of elderly people, many of whom had chronic ailments, had died in
the heat. The morgues in Paris are full, the paper reported.
the alarming reports, France's health service has refused to give an
official death toll, saying it does not yet have accurate statistics on
recent deaths due to the oppressive weather.
it acknowledged that "high temperatures are clearly associated with a
rise in deaths," adding that final figures would take some time to
health ministry meanwhile confirmed that more elderly people were seeking
treatment at hospitals in the heat, but said emergency rooms were not
difficulties encountered are comparable to those seen in years past,
except for a few isolated cases at particular establishments in one or two
parts of the Paris area," the ministry said in a statement.
Carli, head of Paris paramedic services, told Le Parisien: "It will
be difficult to determine how much the heat has contributed to the deaths
recorded. To do that, we would need to conduct an epidemiological
analysis, even if clearly, something exceptional and very serious is going
suffered through the hottest night on record -- 25.5 degrees Celsius (77.9
degrees Fahrenheit) -- and sultry summer temperatures across the country
were not expected to break until later in the week, France's national
weather service Meteo France said Monday.
to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said the government had authorized
nuclear power plants owned by EDF, the state-owned utility, to pump waste
water into nearby rivers at higher temperatures than are usually allowed.
emergency measure was approved to stave off possible power cuts, even
though it could harm the environment.
hot weather is meanwhile continuing to fuel forest fires in the south of
the country, where hundreds of firefighters were battling a blaze in the
hills northeast of the Riviera city of Nice on Monday.
services said they had contained a blaze in the southern Lozere department
near the Cevennes national park but remained on alert, while two separate
blazes ravaged forests on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.
head of the Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, on Monday urged Muslims across
France to pray for rain to bring relief from the heat, following a similar
call from Pope John Paul II to Catholic worshippers on Sunday.