France issues heat wave “red alert” for four departments in the south

PARIS (Reuters) – France on Monday issued a “red alert”, its most serious warning, for four southern regions amid a spell of excessively hot weather, allowing local authorities to call off events and close public facilities if needed.

The departments that will be targeted by the alert are the Rhone, Drome, Ardeche and Haute-Loire, Environment Minister Christophe Bechu told reporters. The alert will become effective at 1600 local time.

It was the sixth time Meteo France triggered the red alert — part of the government’s scheme to protect the population during periods of extreme weather — and the first such incidence this year.

Earlier on Monday, Meteo France had issued an orange alert for half of the country’s territory, saying temperatures will reach between 35 and 38 Celsius (95-100.4 Fahrenheit) in most of the affected departments. Peaks of 41 Celsius were expected in the southwest and in the Rhone valley.

Temperatures are expected to rise to between 40 and 42 Celsius on Tuesday afternoon in the southern departments of Ardeche, Drome, Vaucluse and Gard, Meteo France said.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Dominique Vidalon; Editing by GV De Clercq)