France put on hot weather alert as heatwave reaches Europe

Meteorologists have placed more than half of France, including around Paris, on alert for high temperatures as a heatwave was expected to spread across Europe.

National weather agency Meteo France predicted the hot weather could produce temperatures of up to 40C (104F) across the country just as the summer tourist season shifts into high gear.

The French weather agency set the heat warning level at orange – the second highest intensity on its four-level categorisation system for potentially dangerous conditions requiring public vigilance.

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Heatwave hits Europe
A zookeeper uses water to cool off elephants, as a heatwave is expected to reach the city, at the Berlin Zoo, Germany June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse
A woman plays the water as she cool herself down in the fountain of the Trocadero esplanade in Paris on June 25, 2019 with the Eiffel Tower on the background. - Forecasters say Europeans will feel sizzling heat this week with temperatures soaring as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in an "unprecedented" June heatwave hitting much of Western Europe. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
People cool off in the fountains at the Andre Citroen park in Paris as a heatwave hit much of the country, France, June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
People cool off in the fountains at the Andre Citroen park in Paris as a heatwave hit much of the country, France, June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
People cool off in the Trocadero fountains across from the Eiffel Tower in Paris as a heatwave hit much of the country, France, June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
People cool off in the Trocadero fountains across from the Eiffel Tower in Paris as a heatwave hit much of the country, France, June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
People cool off at a fountain in downtown Rome as a heatwave hits Italy, June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
A woman cools off at a fountain in downtown Rome as a heatwave hits Italy, June 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
People cool off in water fountains in Nice as a heatwave is expected in much of the country, France, June 24, 2019. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
The sun shines in the sky over the Eiffel Tower in Paris as a heatwave is expected in much of the country, France, June 24, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
People sunbathe near the Trocadero fountains and the Eiffel tower in Paris as a heatwave is expected in much of the country, France, June 24, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
People stroll on a sandbank that is usually covered by the river Rhine as a Dutch tanker ship cruises on the partially dried out waterway in Oberwesel, Germany, August 12, 2018, as water levels remain low due to drought and heatwave hindering freight vessels from sailing fully loaded on the river. Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay
Young children cool off in a fountain in Mulhouse, eastern France, on June 25, 2019. - Meteorologists blamed a blast of torrid air from the Sahara for the unusually early summer heatwave, which could send thermometers up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in some places on June 27 and 28. Experts say such heatwaves early in the summer are likely to be more frequent as the planet heats up. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP) (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images)
A pigeon drinks water from a fountain in Mulhouse, eastern France, on June 25, 2019. - Meteorologists blamed a blast of torrid air from the Sahara for the unusually early summer heatwave, which could send thermometers up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in some places on June 27 and 28. Experts say such heatwaves early in the summer are likely to be more frequent as the planet heats up. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP) (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play with water at the Place de Stalingrad on June 25, 2019 in Paris. - Forecasters say Europeans will feel sizzling heat this week with temperatures soaring as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in an "unprecedented" June heatwave hitting much of Western Europe. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
People enjoy the warm and sun weather as they sit on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin on June 25, 2019, in Paris. - Forecasters say Europeans will feel sizzling heat this week with temperatures soaring as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in an "unprecedented" June heatwave hitting much of Western Europe. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A man takes a selfie picture with a mobile-phone as he stands in the middle of the Trocadero fountain in Paris on June 25, 2019. - Forecasters say Europeans will feel sizzling heat this week with temperatures soaring as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in an "unprecedented" June heatwave hitting much of Western Europe. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A teenager swims in the fountain of the Trocadero esplanade in Paris on June 25, 2019, with the Palais de Chaillot on the background. - Forecasters say Europeans will feel sizzling heat this week with temperatures soaring as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in an "unprecedented" June heatwave hitting much of Western Europe. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman plays the water as she cool herself down in the fountain of the Trocadero esplanade in Paris on June 25, 2019 with the Eiffel Tower on the background. - Forecasters say Europeans will feel sizzling heat this week with temperatures soaring as high as 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in an "unprecedented" June heatwave hitting much of Western Europe. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo credit should read KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)
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In Paris, charity organisations patrolled the streets to provide homeless people with water, while local authorities organised air-conditioned public places where people could seek shelter from the heat.

French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, deciding it was too hot to study, ordered national exams taken by students heading to high school to be postponed from Thursday and Friday to next week.

International football federation Fifa could face implementing heat precautions at the Women's World Cup, which France is hosting. The precautions include holding cooling breaks during matches and postponing games if the heat is too intense.

Women's World Cup matches are scheduled every day this week, except Wednesday and Sunday. Luckily, most were set to be played at night.

France introduced a heat watch warning system after a long, deadly heatwave in August 2003.

The highest temperatures in more than half a century eventually were estimated to have caused 15,000 heat-related deaths, many of older people left in city apartments and retirement homes without air conditioning.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that vigilance was the watchword for the week.

"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," Mr Macron said.

French health minister Agnes Buzyn said that "everything is ready" in retirement homes, hospitals and transportation systems.

"Yet when people are fragile, even when everything is organised, there's always a higher mortality rate," she warned.

A dog sticks his tongue out in Lille amid the hot weather
A dog sticks his tongue out in Lille amid the hot weather (Michel Spingler/AP)

Meteorologists said hot winds from the Sahara Desert brought the scorching weather to Europe. Similar heat is expected in Belgium, Switzerland and Germany.

In Germany, temperatures above 40C are possible in some places on Wednesday, topping the country's previous June record of 38.2C, set in Frankfurt in 1947.

Parts of north-eastern Germany are also at high risk for forest fires. Authorities in the eastern state of Brandenburg, which circles Berlin, said the risk of forest fires is at the highest level in the coming days.

Scientists say measurements show that heatwaves in Europe are becoming more frequent.

Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said "monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate".

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