PARIS (Reuters) -As the weather service widened a heatwave red alert for southern France, authorities urged some mountain climbers to postpone their activities, while grape pickers were advised to start and end their work in the morning to avoid extreme heat exposure.
The soaring temperatures are affecting large parts of France and were expected to peak at 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in the wine-growing Rhone Valley over the next 48 hours.
In the French Alps, authorities urged climbers to delay scaling Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, because high temperatures had created dangerous conditions, including a greater risk of rockfall and new crevices opening on its glaciers.
The Haute-Savoie region, which includes the French side of the Mont Blanc, is among the 49 departments under an orange alert for high temperatures.
Grape-pickers in wine-producing regions of southern France were urged to start work early to avoid sweltering in the late summer heatwave.
France’s weather service on Tuesday widened its “red alert”, the most serious warning, to include 15 more departments from Wednesday, which will cover large swathes of the southeastern Provence region and some areas to the southwest.
The alert allows local authorities to call off sporting or cultural events and close public facilities if needed.
“The message is that we reinforce precautions for everyone,” Health Minister Aurelien Rousseau told reporters on Tuesday.
HIGHEST ALERT LEVEL
Meteo France on Monday issued a red alert for four departments around the Rhone valley – Rhone, Drome, Ardeche and Haute-Loire.
It has now added the departments of l’Ain, la Loire, l’Isère, la Lozère, le Gard, le Vaucluse, l’Hérault, l’Aveyron, le Tarn, le Tarn et Garonne, l’Aude, le Lot, le Lot et Garonne, la Haute Garonne and le Gers.
“The heatwave is expected to peak between Tuesday and Thursday, depending on the regions,” Meteo France said.
Jerome Volle, a wine producer in Ardeche and vice-president of French farmers’ union FNSEA, told BFM TV that the grape harvest had begun in his region and one way to beat the heat was to “start picking the grapes at 3.30 a.m. in the morning and to stop at 11 a.m.”
Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau told reporters during a visit to a farm in Burgundy that producers needed to adapt.
“To grow enough food, it is necessary to adapt the schedules, which farmers do, which market gardeners do, which breeders do, and at the same time continue to produce in conditions which are necessarily somewhat degraded,” he said.
Temperatures were expected to rise to between 35 C (95 F) and 39 C (102.2 F) in large parts of southern and eastern France on Tuesday, and up to 42 C (107.6 F) in the Drome and Ardeche, Meteo France said.
On Wednesday, temperatures of up to 40 C (104 F) were expected in the south, pushing to 42 C in the southwest near Toulouse and in the Rhone valley.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; additional reporting by Sybille de la Hamaide; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Bernadette Baum)