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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Paris doctors say 50 dead in heat
Woman in Paris hospital
French doctors say hospitals cannot cope with heat sufferers
Europe's punishing heatwave has claimed 50 lives in Paris in the past four days, doctors say.

Patrick Pelloux, head of France's emergency doctors' association, attacked French Government officials for classifying the deaths as "natural".

"They dare to talk about natural deaths. I absolutely do not agree with saying that," said Mr Pelloux.

Health officials responded that there were no accurate statistics blaming the heat solely for the deaths.

Temperatures in the French capital have been above 35C (95F) for more than a week, and on Sunday set a record night-time high of 25.5C (77.9F).

The situation is very serious
French Industry Minister Nicole Fontaine
Doctors say French hospitals are unable to cope with the numbers of patients suffering from the heat.

Meanwhile five people have died and hundreds have been evacuated as a forest fire has swept through north-eastern Spain.

The five, who were reported to be members of the same family, were found near their home in the Catalan village of Sant Llorenc Savall.

The fire is now said to be under control and those evacuated have returned to their homes.

The tragedy brings to 24 the number of people killed by the extreme weather in Spain in the past two weeks, most of whom were elderly victims of heat stroke.

Power shortages

As the heatwave continues to bite, parts of Europe are facing the threat of blackouts amid soaring demand for power in the summer heatwave.

Heatstroke victim in southern France
France has its hottest summer in half a century

Electricity firms have warned that the increased use of air-conditioning and refridgeration comes as river levels drop and water temperatures rise, straining cooling systems at power stations.

Italians have already been living with power shutdowns.

The Dutch electricity grid operator has now warned that it may not be able to meet demands for power at peak times from Monday onwards.

It is the first time in nine years that a "code red" alert has been issued for the Dutch national grid.

The French Government has reportedly decided to allow nuclear power stations to expel hotter water into rivers, prompting fears of environmental damage.

The alternative would be to introduce power cuts to prevent overheating, as there is currently insufficient river water to cool reactors.

"The situation is very serious," said French Industry Minister Nicole Fontaine, who urged consumers to switch off lights and not use air conditioners.

Fires and drought

Fresh fires were burning on Monday in Portugal, already devastated by some of the worst forest blazes in Europe.

How hot is hot? Maps and graphs looking at extreme weather around the world

Hundreds of firefighters were battling a fire in the southern Monchique mountains as around 300 people were moved from their homes.

In Italy, firefighters have battled to put out a fire burning for several days near Udine in the north-east of the country.

Many farmers throughout the continent say their crops have been devastated and livestock decimated.

Grain yields are expected to fall drastically across the region, with Germany's Brandenberg state facing an 80% drop compared with last year.

Droughts in 11 Italian regions are threatening olive, wine and fruit harvests.

And one million chickens died on farms across France last week alone.

However, the news was not all bad, as vineyards in south-eastern England said they were expecting their best-ever vintage.

In heat-related events around Europe:

  • The UK saw its hottest-ever temperatures on Sunday - 38.1C (100.6F) in the south-eastern town of Gravesend
  • Temperatures in Paris have been above 35C (95F) for more than a week, and on Sunday set a record night-time high of 25.5C (77.9F)
  • Three people died in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica
  • Dozens of art works in Belgrade, including oil paintings and wooden sculptures, were moved to an underground depot to protect them from the heat
  • Hikers in the French Alps were warned about the dangers of rock avalanches on a popular Mont Blanc route, after 44 climbers had to be rescued by helicopter on Saturday
  • The Pope urged believers to pray for rain to ease Europe's forest fires.

Forecasters say Spain, Germany and France have at least a few more days of intense heat, while Italy is expected to sizzle until September.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Allan Little
"It's not just the temperature, but that the heatwave is lasting so long"



SEE ALSO:
Europe's language of heat
11 Aug 03  |  Europe
Pope leads prayers for rain
10 Aug 03  |  Europe
Heatwave part of global trend
07 Aug 03  |  Science/Nature
In pictures: Portugal blazes
04 Aug 03  |  Photo Gallery
Emergency threat in dry Italy
14 Jul 03  |  Europe



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