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France sweats in new record-breaking Europe heat wave

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

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PARIS, France (AFP) — Tour de France cyclists competed in scorching temperatures and a French nuclear power plant prepared to shut down Tuesday as western Europe baked in a new heat wave already breaking longstanding records.

Overheating tourists in Paris and Berlin plunged into fountains and ornamental ponds to keep cool while zoo keepers in the Netherlands handed out food caked in ice to look after thirsty animals.

The southwestern French city of Bordeaux saw its highest ever temperature since records began of 41.2 degrees Celsius (106.16 Fahrenheit), beating the previous high of 40.7C registered in August 2003, weather service Meteo-France said.

Forecasters predicted new temperature highs in a string of countries, including Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands, where the mercury is set to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for the first time on Thursday.

The same day could also mark the all-time record temperature for the French capital Paris, whose current record has stood at 40.4 degrees Celsius (104.7 degrees Fahrenheit) for over seventy years.

Meteo-France currently has a record 81 of the country's 96 mainland departments on an orange weather alert, meaning citizens should be highly vigilant.

As the Tour de France reached its final week in the southeast of the country, ice foot baths and extra water points were on hand to avoid dehydration.

"In the third week of the Tour de France, I think heat like this could make the difference," said Davide Bramati, head of sport for team Deceuninck, whose cyclist Julian Alaphilippe is currently leading the world-famous race.

French energy company EDF said it would temporarily shut down the two reactors at its Golftech nuclear power plant this week in the southern Tarn-et-Garonne department, in a bid to limit the heating of water used to keep reactors cool.

Reactor number 2 will shut down on Tuesday evening and number 1 on Wednesday, with both due to stay shut until July 30.

France is gearing up for a surge in electricity use this week, but the national electricity board said Monday that there will be enough supplies.

The government outlawed animal transportation "for economic reasons" between 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm in areas affected by heat alerts.

Unlike the scorching heat wave at the end of June, the current blast of hot air is most severe in parts of northern Europe completely unaccustomed to such temperatures.


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