July 21, 2006

Heatwave blamed for 20 deaths in France

PARIS (Reuters) - A heatwave in France has probably killed
20 people this week, including a 15-month old baby, the Health
Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

A ministry official said the baby died in Paris where
temperatures hit 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) earlier this
week, but provided no further details.

Of the other victims, 10 were aged 80 or over, four
collapsed at their workplace, two died while playing sport, two
were homeless and one was an obese youth "in poor physical

Temperatures of well above 30 Celsius have been registered
across France over the past week and weather forecasters say
the heatwave looks set to continue well into next week.

However, it was not as hot as 2003, when around 15,000
mostly old people died in a heat wave that lasted less than a

The high death toll stunned health authorities and local
officials have worked hard to try to improve their response to
heatwaves, supplying air conditioning to retirement homes and
broadcasting constant information on how to cope in the heat.

Much of Europe has been affected by the heatwave.

Temperatures in southern Britain hit a July record of 36.3
Celsius earlier this week and British farmers have begun
harvesting wheat fields early because of the dry weather.

Members of Poland's ruling conservative party prayed for
rain at a special mass in a parliamentary chapel on Thursday to
end a drought plaguing wheat, potato and dairy farmers.