Three people have died in France as a result of the heatwave sweeping through much of Europe, which has seen temperatures rise to well over 30°c.
Those who died were swimming at beaches across the country and their deaths have been attributed to hydrocution, which causes temporary breathlessness and the constriction of blood vessels when coming into contact with cold water due to the temperature difference.
French firemen are warning people to enter cold waters gradually to accustom the body to the drastic temperature change, in efforts to prevent hydrocution – otherwise known as cold shock response.
A 70-year-old man died after jumping into cold water at the Marseillan-Plage beach in southern France on Monday (June 24), The Telegraph reports. People immediately rushed to the man’s aid, however emergency services failed to resuscitate him after he lost consciousness.
Two others lost their lives in similar circumstances one day later, with a 62-year-old woman dying at Frontignan beach near Montpellier after ‘having a malaise and drowning’. A 75-year-old man died at another nearby beach, Carnon.
Their deaths come as hundreds flock to lakes and rivers to escape high temperatures currently faced by those living in France. In fact, officials have been preparing for the expected high temperatures by opening extra pools and introducing mist machines across the capital city, Paris.
Paris is going to extreme measures in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the 2003 heatwave, which resulted in the deaths of 15,000 people across France, with hospitals and morgues becoming overwhelmed.
France’s national weather agency, Meteo France, issued an orange alert (the second highest level of weather warning) earlier this week and warned parts of the country could reach 40°C today (June 26) – a temperature which is unusually high for early summer.
To prepare for the heat, officials enacted a heatwave action plan on Monday (June 24) which includes creating public ‘cool rooms’, as well as placing additional water fountains and mist machines across the city, Business Insider reports.
Devices have also been installed which convert some fire hydrants into fountains and sprinklers. Thousands of school exams have been postponed as a result.
As reported by The Guardian, Anne Hidalgo, the Paris mayor, said as many as eight major swimming pools would stay open after 10pm, and swimming would be allowed in the canal basin at La Villette.
The mayor also said three temporary outdoor pools would be set up in highly populated, lower-income areas of the city, which will be free to use.
Elderly and vulnerable people living alone without contact with neighbours are a particular concern, with special phone hotlines being set up so people can ring up and get information.
June national temperature records could tumble in France and Germany this week!
Current records stand at 41.5C in France and 38.5C in Germany. #heatwave
— BBC Weather (@bbcweather) June 23, 2019
French President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this week that it is vital for everyone to be vigilant in the coming days.
He said, as per the Associated Press:
As you know, at times like these, sick people, pregnant women, infants and elderly people are the most vulnerable. So we must be vigilant with them and have prevention measures in place in order to intervene as quickly as possible.
The Health Minister of France, Agnes Buzyn, warned on Monday that even though ‘everything is ready’ in retirement homes, hospitals and transportation systems, ‘there’s always a higher mortality rate’ when people are fragile.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).