27th May 2019

France fears 3000 dead due to heatwave

France's heatwave may have caused up to 3000 deaths across the country, the health ministry said on Thursday (14 August) after the government came under fire for failing to respond adequately to the crisis.

The ministry said in a statement that its estimates were based on reports of deaths received from hospitals and mortuaries whose figures for this week were 37% higher than for the same period last year.

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The government's announcement came after it yesterday launched crisis management measures - known as plan blanc - usually reserved for epidemics, terror attacks and catastrophes.

"We can qualify what is happening to us as a true epidemic," Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei told France-Inter radio interview", reported Yahoo.

However the government is being criticised for acting so late in the day.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has been coming under particular fire for appearing to act so slowly to the crisis, but most ministers have also been away for the month of August, a traditional holiday period.

The temperatures lessened slightly on Thursday dropping to around 30 degrees Celsius compared to the 40C highs that the country has been experiencing over the past weeks.

Drought-hit farmers

The Commission on Thursday announced some measures for farmers hit by drought.

The proposals, expected to be approved by the Commission in the next few days, include bringing forward the payment of 50% of direct support for arable crops by one month to 16 October, as well as bringing forward advances for suckler cows, and beef, sheep and goat premiums, to the beginning of September.

Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said "It is clear that in circumstances such as these, Member States have primary responsibility and can take appropriate measures, including through amending their rural development programmes and by adopting eligible state aids".

The EU’s Joint Research Centre has released figures showing that the expected drop in the main crop yields ranges from about 2% for potato to 25% for sunflower at EU level.

The loss in wheat production will be approximately 10 million tonnes compared to the previous agricultural campaign, estimates the JRC.


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