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LIVE FROM...

Dozens Dead in France From Heat Wave

Aired August 12, 2003 - 14:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: As with Iraq the sweltering heat is stretching across Europe. Triple-digit temperatures are making life pretty miserable in many countries. Among the hardest hit in France where the heat wave is know blamed on dozens of deaths.
CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us now live from Paris. Paula, what's it like?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, it's extremely hot here. We were up against near the 100-degree Fahrenheit level once again today. We're coming into the second week, very much into the second week of the heat wave here in France.

Now we have a nationwide debate between doctors on the one hand, the French government on the other hand as to whether or not the French government was even prepared for this heat wave. We've had one doctor say to us that at least 100 people have died due to heat- related illnesses over the last week, since last Monday.

Now, the French government has said that they were prepared for it. The French prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who is on holiday at the moment is the Alps, he has issued a press release saying he won't get involved in a verbal debate. But his spokesperson did say that it is, quote, "important and serious situation but under control."

We have some military hospitals here in France also being used as civilian hospitals. They've been told that if civilians do come up to them and say they do need treatment for heat illness, then they should basically do what they can to help them.

So there have been a lot of people affected by this heat. Paris is not equipped for these sort of temperatures. The usual temperature in this month of August is 75 degrees Fahrenheit. We are teetering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, to give you some sort of idea how unusual it is for this area.

Now, a lot of the doctors are saying that they've launched their own action plan. They say the government hasn't done enough, so what they're doing is trying to free up as many beds as they can in these hospitals. They're also trying to push back any non-urgent operations so they can deal basically just with the people that are being affected by heat at the moment.

Also we have the problem of electricity. Across Europe, and especially in France, some people are saying that we might have to have blackouts and power cuts because some of the nuclear power reactors in France are threatening to overheat. In fact, one in the eastern part of France was just two degrees Centigrade away from an emergency shutdown earlier on this month. They tried to hose that particular reactor down with water.

But basically, they're saying that they're not equipped for this sort of heat. The government saying as well they were going to try and let the French nuclear reactors bend the rules slightly as to the temperature of water they can push back into the rivers just so they wouldn't have to have these power cuts -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, Paula, I guess it leads me to my next question. Is it a good time to visit that country? It's such a popular place for tourism. And has tourism been affected?

HANCOCKS: Well, there's certain parts of tourism that are obviously going do be better. Of course, ice cream are up a ridiculous amount. The sales of fans are up a ridiculous amount as well because quite a few of these buildings here in Paris are fairly old and they don't have air conditioning units.

But most Parisians have left Paris. That's what they do in August. They leave Paris, they go on holiday, and a lot of the city, a lot of the business part of the city does shut down. So there are a lot of tourists here walking particularly slowly as you might imagine and clutching for dear life on to these bottles of water. We had people saying -- some of these doctors saying yesterday, keep drinking water, stay in the shade and wear loose-fitting clothing.

So, yes, it's a good time to be here, but it is very hot -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, Paula Hancocks, I hope you're following those orders also. Thank you for bringing us that live report from Paris.

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