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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 June, 2004, 01:34 GMT 02:34 UK
Italy's summer heat survival plan
Elderly woman treated in Paris hospital
The plan hopes to protect high-risk people aged over 65
Italy has drawn up emergency plans to protect the elderly from heatwaves as the summer starts to hot up.

Supermarkets and other air-conditioned spaces such as cinemas may be forced to offer refuge if temperatures soar.

Towns will pass on lists of vulnerable elderly people to local health authorities who will be responsible for emergency assistance.

Italy, along with much of Europe, experienced a record heatwave in 2003, causing an increase in the death rate.

There were some 7,660 more deaths than usual during the summer months of 2003, mostly among the elderly.

Extreme conditions

The proposal, which the health ministry is due to submit to parliament, will emphasise the importance of the traditional network of family and friends to watch over the frailest elderly people.

Towns will also have to provide local health authorities with lists of people aged 65 years or over who could be under threat during a heat wave.

"In order to help people when the heat wave comes we have to know where they are, we have to map them," Italy's 71-year-old Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia told the BBC.

Under the new plans they would be evacuated to hospitals and rehabilitation centres if the heat becomes unbearable but, if necessary, they could spend up to several hours in air-conditioned supermarkets.

"If we have not enough room we could move them into supermarkets where the temperatures are quite cool," Mr Sirchia said.

But the proposal raised some eyebrows in Italy - as temperatures soar and people abandon cities in the summer months many supermarkets and cinemas shut.




SEE ALSO:
Europe's summers 'to get hotter'
12 Jan 04  |  Science/Nature
Global warming 'biggest threat'
09 Jan 04  |  Science/Nature
Emergency threat in dry Italy
14 Jul 03  |  Europe
Heatwave part of global trend
07 Aug 03  |  Science/Nature



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