Mercury tops 45C in France as deadly heatwave roasts Europe

People play as they bathe in the Trocadero Fountain in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris during a heatwave on June 28, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 29 June 2019

Mercury tops 45C in France as deadly heatwave roasts Europe

  • Two deaths linked to the heatwave were reported in Spain
  • In Paris, Lyon and Marseille, authorities have banned the most polluting cars from the roads in recent days

CARPENTRAS, FRANCE: Temperatures in France surpassed 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) Friday for the first time on record as Europe sweltered in an early summer heatwave that has caused several deaths.
With France, Spain, Italy and parts of central Europe hard hit by the record-breaking temperatures, officials pleaded with people to take precautions.
France’s new record temperature of 45.9 degrees C (114.6 degrees F) was registered in Gallargues-le-Montueux, a village in the southern department of Gard near Montpellier, breaking successive records set earlier in the day, the Meteo-France weather service told AFP.
This is the same area where the previous high of 44.1 degrees Celsius was set in August 2003. Records began at the turn of the 20th century.
The weather service said the new high was comparable to August temperatures in California’s Death Valley.
Earlier Friday, the mercury rose above 44 degrees C in the southeastern French town of Carpentras. The town was deserted, with cafe owners contemplating empty terraces which would normally be packed. “We have never seen this!” one exclaimed.
The new record makes France just the seventh European country to have recorded a plus 45-degree temperature, along with Bulgaria, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece and North Macedonia, Meteo France said.

Two deaths linked to the heatwave were reported in Spain.
A Spanish teenager felt dizzy while helping harvest wheat in the southern Andalusia region, took a dip in a swimming pool, and collapsed in convulsions.
He was rushed to hospital in the town of Cordoba where he died, the regional government said.
A 93-year-old man collapsed and died on the street in the northern Spanish city of Valladolid, police said, giving heatstroke as the cause of death.
Heat-related deaths have also been reported in Italy, France and Germany, mainly among the elderly.
France remains haunted by the memory of the devastating heatwave of August 2003 which exposed the shortcomings of emergency services at the height of the summer holidays.
That year, nearly 15,000 people are estimated to have died because of the heat, many of them elderly people at home.
“I want to appeal to the sense of responsibility of citizens — there are avoidable deaths in every heatwave,” said French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
Scientists warn that global warming linked to human fossil fuel use could make such scorchers more frequent.
Germany’s national weather service said the country experienced temperatures more than four degrees higher in June than the average, on one measure.

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn warned people tempted to plunge into cold water, both young and old, to do so only in designated public bathing areas, adding that four people have drowned since the beginning of the week.
On Thursday, Buzyn lamented that despite a barrage of public health warnings on radio, TV and on public transport, some parents were still leaving their children in hot cars and joggers were out exercising in the midday heat.
A six-year-old Syrian child was seriously injured north of Paris Thursday after being catapulted into the air by water gushing from an open fire hydrant and then crashing to the ground.
The incident occurred in the multi-ethnic Saint-Denis neighborhood, where “uncapping” hydrants has long been used as a way to cool off.
In the Italian city of Milan, a 72-year-old homeless man was found dead at the main train station Thursday after falling ill in the heatwave.
A day earlier, four people died in Germany in bathing accidents.

In Spain, firefighters managed to halt the progression of a forest fire that broke out Wednesday in the northeastern Catalonia region and had burned more than 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres).
Catalonia’s forest service said the fire likely began when an “improperly managed” pile of manure at a chicken farm spontaneously combusted in the extreme heat.
Hundreds of firefighters backed by troops and aerial water bombers were hampered by roasting 44-degree temperatures and very low humidity.
Spain’s north-east was on red heatwave alert denoting “extreme risk.”
The stifling temperatures have caused air quality to nosedive in some European cities, prompting local authorities to take anti-pollution measures.
In Paris, Lyon and Marseille, authorities have banned the most polluting cars from the roads in recent days.


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 23 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

 Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

 Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

 The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

 Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

 Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

 The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

 “Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

 “So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

 Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

 The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

 Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

 Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

 She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

 One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

 There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

 The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”