August 15, 2003


This canít be right:

About 3,000 people have died in France of heat-related causes since abnormally high temperatures swept across the country about two weeks ago, the health ministry estimated Thursday.

These numbers have got to include deaths not caused solely by the heat, surely. Otherwise weíre talking about Franceís own September 11, brought on by temperatures that according to AFP didnít even make it to 100. Old folks were the main victims:

Health officials say August is often a time when elderly people find themselves alone, when their families go on vacation.

"They are often alone in Paris when their families go away on holiday," said health ministry spokeswoman Laurence Danand. "There are a lot of elderly people alone in big cities in August."

Thereís a lot fewer now. I hope not as much as this story claims.

Posted by Tim Blair at August 15, 2003 01:43 AM

According to Merde in France, the French media was virtually ignoring local heat related deaths up until Tuesday, when the government started counting them officially.

Quote: The estimated number of deaths in the greater Paris area due to excessive heat varies between 50 and 300 (CNN puts the figure at 100). Medical and governmental authorities claim that the true figure is close to zero and that all of these deaths should be put down to old age. During this heatwave, French televised news has covered news of heat related deaths ... in Portugal and Spain.

Posted by: Evil Pundit at August 15, 2003 at 02:02 AM

One story I read followed up the 3000 number with the statement that normally about 2300 would die during this period. So realistically, that's the number of victims of the heat wave, even if many more had effects from the heat that led to their deaths.

Posted by: Mike G at August 15, 2003 at 02:15 AM

It's a quagmire!

Posted by: Edmund Burke at August 15, 2003 at 02:21 AM

Well at least the heat got that vile Nazi-loving aristo, Mrs Mosley a few days ago. There is a silver lining.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at August 15, 2003 at 02:29 AM

Now, the Mosleys inspired two of the greatest works of art of the 20th century (an Elvis Costello song and Wodehouse's The Code of the Woosters). That's something.

Posted by: Mike G at August 15, 2003 at 02:54 AM

I interviewed Mosley's son once. Clever guy.

Posted by: tim at August 15, 2003 at 03:08 AM

Oh, yeah, those grooved tires were a great idea.

Posted by: Pete Stanley at August 15, 2003 at 03:35 AM

What did Jacques Chriac know and when did he know it?

Posted by: Andrew at August 15, 2003 at 03:59 AM

Actually, Tim, those numbers may be reasonable. In a big heatwave in Chicago in 1995, about 525 people died from the heat in just 5 days. A lot of those deaths were attributable to folks in bad neighborhoods keeping their windows closed despite the heat.

Posted by: Andrew at August 15, 2003 at 04:01 AM

A caller to the Jim Rome radio show here in the States this morning accused the French being "softer than a lump of ice cream in the sun." Ouch.

You know, it's 100 degrees here in Vegas every day in the summer, but I've never known anyone who's died from the heat or expect anyone today or tomorrow, or the next month to die from it. What in the heck is wrong in Europe?

Posted by: Matt from Vegas at August 15, 2003 at 04:31 AM

Paris had one solid week of temperatures in the 37-38C range, which is pretty close to 100F. And 2 or 3 of those days were quite humid too, at least if the weather here in Brussels is any indication.

Not fun if you have no access to air-conditioning, which Matt in Vegas presumably does.

Posted by: vaara at August 15, 2003 at 04:44 AM

Well, Matt from Vegas, in defense of the Euros, two things should be noted: 1.) they mostly don't have air-conditioning and swimming pools, while people in Vegas mostly do and 2.) they have humid heat instead of dry heat.

I'm a Californian and I've seen my share of 110+ days, but dry heat is a lot easier to deal with than humid heat. (I'll take 110F in the shade in California over 90F in Amsterdam -- or Chicago -- any old day.)

Posted by: Irene A. at August 15, 2003 at 04:47 AM

Yeah, and I feel compelled to offer a disclaimer that it's easy to make light of a tragedy when you have no ties to the consequences of it. Damn you, conscience, damn yooou!

Posted by: Matt from Vegas at August 15, 2003 at 04:52 AM

At least one person in Britain has already suffered from frostbite as a result of the "heatwave.",4057,6941512%255E13762,00.html

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at August 15, 2003 at 04:57 AM

This is truly awful to consider. I hope the numbers have been inflated per French policy.

Also, I can't resist passing this along: The other night on "Tough Crowd", an American TV show that gathers 4 comedians to discuss topical issues, the subject of smoking bans came up. One comic's take was "I have no problem with the tobacco companies. Anything that kills thousands of French each year can't be all bad."


Posted by: Rob at August 15, 2003 at 05:48 AM

It's all George Bush's fault. If he had endorsed the Kyoto Accord, it would be a balmy 27c in Paris now.

/sarcasm off

This connection is already being made, at Granma, and the World Socialist Web Site (published by the International Committee of the Fourth International) Is it just me, or does that sound like the Department of Redundancy Department?

Posted by: Ernie G at August 15, 2003 at 05:52 AM

This heat is a symbol of the fury and hatred of this filthy drought!

Posted by: Robert Fisk at August 15, 2003 at 05:54 AM

...and it's only a matter of time before the BBC and the New York Times come aboard.

Posted by: Ernie G at August 15, 2003 at 05:54 AM

Now we know the real reason the French refused to be part of the Iraq invasion. They can't take the heat!

Posted by: DaveSLC at August 15, 2003 at 06:00 AM

Perhaps the French should ask themselves, "Why does the sun hate us?"

Posted by: E.A. at August 15, 2003 at 06:03 AM

What's French for "mysterious ways"?

Posted by: Angus Jung at August 15, 2003 at 06:15 AM

Best of the Web at has this verrrry interesting comment:

Might it be noteworthy that the French are claiming almost the same number of deaths from the heat as America suffered on Sept. 11? A popular lunatic conspiracy theory on the "European street" has it that George W. Bush is to blame every time the weather is bad. (This cartoon from Le Monde hints at the idea.) Don't be surprised if the America-haters' next talking point is that by renouncing the Kyoto Protocols Bush killed as many people as Osama bin Laden did.

Considering how hard people like Marc Herold worked the stats on Afghanistan to come up with a number by which America killed more Afghans than the Taliban killed Americans, this is not at all implausible.

Posted by: Mike G at August 15, 2003 at 06:34 AM

3000....Hmmm...That IS an awfully familiar number. Perhaps it's an attempt to elicit American sympathy. An attempt that is unlikely to work, that is...

Posted by: Tongue Boy at August 15, 2003 at 08:02 AM

People, the humidity in France is nothing. I grew up in Ohio where the humidity is so bad that you walk out of your air conditioned home and are instantly soaked. I spent a lot of last July and August in France, and it was the most perfect weather I've ever experienced -- hot without being stifling or oppressive, and definitely not the kind of heat that drenches you.

We had the hottest day in British history here in the UK the other day, and the humidity we experienced was piddly. We're 20 miles from France.

I call bullshit.

Posted by: Jackie D at August 15, 2003 at 10:46 AM

I've spent a lifetime enduring more heat that any of you wankers. Get a life.

Posted by: Prick at August 15, 2003 at 11:04 AM

I always have trouble with my humidor when it gets over 100F. My Macanudos either develop a bluish-green mould or I get an outbreak of tobacco beetle. Have there been any reports from France on this problem?

Posted by: Alex Hidell at August 15, 2003 at 11:27 AM

Of 60 million in both countries, France has 16.3% population aged 64+ compared to UK 15.6%. The heatwave hit the vulnerable.

However, France has proportionately fewer aged than most other European countries, but its aged may have been more concentrated in high-risk areas such as alone in city apartments as suggested.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 15, 2003 at 11:31 AM

Somebody upthread is having a lend of my "good name". Hee.

Posted by: Prick at August 15, 2003 at 12:14 PM

Even if the humidity is high, does that make hot weather inherently more dangerous? Can anyone tell me whether or not this is the case? I live in Southern California, we don't "do" humidity. I know that humidity makes hot days a good deal less comfortable, but does it make them more dangerous?

On a related note, I recently returned from a trip to Paris and it seems plausible to me that a number of the deaths may have been caused by people who were holding their breath so as to avoid the stench of Frenchmen on a warm day. I wonder if there are any stats on this.

Posted by: Jon Black at August 15, 2003 at 12:44 PM

When I was growing up in the outback, it was so humid, mum had to submerge us in the water tank so we could breathe.

That was before the drought of course.

Posted by: pooh at August 15, 2003 at 01:05 PM

Humidity probably would make it worse because sweating is less effective to cool you - that's why humid heat is worse than dry heat. Mind you, I'll take 30 degress and 90% any day over 45 in the shade.

I've read before that summer heat waves always knock over a fair few elderly, thus leading to much global-warming wailing, but winter cold kills more.

Posted by: PJ at August 15, 2003 at 01:57 PM

What's blue and fucks old ladies?

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 15, 2003 at 02:17 PM

Hypothermia doesn't have a colour.

Posted by: Gabor at August 15, 2003 at 02:20 PM

If a woman in England or France leaves her child in a car when the temperature is about 30 deg, (a daytime temperature they never get below in Bangkok), and the child dies due to heat stress, should the death be blamed on the 'heatwave' or on 'climate change' or on f***ing imbecilic stupidity?

Posted by: Tom at August 15, 2003 at 02:32 PM

Any tabloids pick up on the obvious headline "Heatwave Makes Frogs Croak"?
And Gabor, pedantry is preferable to pederasty, but both are a pain in the arse.
The old ladies turn blue with hypothermia.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 15, 2003 at 02:43 PM

Pedantry, pederasty -- I like it both ways.

Posted by: Big Ramifications at August 15, 2003 at 03:32 PM

There's nothing funnier than seeing these soft Europeans drop dead when the mercury goes up a bit.

40 degrees - Now that's what I call good cricket weather.

Posted by: Mike Hunt at August 15, 2003 at 06:43 PM

Damn you, Habib,
I just wasted 20 minutes of Friday sundowner time emailing off your tabloid headline :-)

"Heat Makes Frogs Croak"

Now I'll be late for dinner.

Posted by: Pedro the Ignorant at August 15, 2003 at 06:51 PM

What's blue and fucks old ladies?


Posted by: Big Ramifications at August 15, 2003 at 07:03 PM

Would you like to fuck my old bag, then? I'm afraid she's desperately ugly. But she could certainly use the exercise.

Posted by: Bubba Louie at August 15, 2003 at 07:31 PM

According to this story (which requires registration)

many French sophisticates would rather die of heatstroke than install one of those vile American air-conditioning machines--at least that's what they said before this Yankee-induced heat wave. Now they can't get enough of them. Damn you, imperialistes Americains! You may have won this time, amis, but the French nation will rise again and hit you where it hurts--in the cinema.

Posted by: alby at August 15, 2003 at 07:53 PM

The French seem to think the United States is to blame for the deadly European heat wave. They do feel inadequate, don't they?

Posted by: ZsaZsa at August 15, 2003 at 08:30 PM

Are any of the geriatric French having hot gran-on-gran action before they die from this American terrorist act?

Posted by: Andjam at August 15, 2003 at 09:19 PM

I blame John Howard.

Posted by: Evil Pundit at August 15, 2003 at 10:56 PM

Pansies! St.Louis, Missouri, in the 1950s. Heat 124 at the airport, humidity 101%. No air-conditioning to be had. Deal with it. (Good frog-hunting weather though. Get a flashlight, a gig or .22 and it was just about too hot for them to jump. Ummmmmhhh. Froglegs.)

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at August 16, 2003 at 04:39 AM

I live in an area that's hot and humid in the summer and I'm old enough to remember summers when a/c wasn't widely available. If I recall, the places that didn't have a/c at least had fans
(that's what we had at home when I was growing up).

I've learned from a co-worker, who is from France, that it isn't common for the French to even have fans. His parents have been suffering through the heat wave with no fan. He says they don't want to buy one just for this freakish hot spell because they'll probably never use it again.

He said most people in his parents' neighborhood did not have fans. It's not something they need so they just don't purchase them. Me, I'd make an exception and buy at least one. Must be a cultural thing I dont understand. My co-worker didn't think it at all strange his parents would go through this heat wave with no fan.

BTW: My French co-worker's family is middle class, so they could afford a fan if they wanted one.

I can't imagine surviving a hot summer without even a fan.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at August 16, 2003 at 07:43 AM

Is it possible that Mosley was also part of the inspiration for Roger Waters and Gerald Scarfe in The Wall?

Posted by: charles austin at August 16, 2003 at 10:21 AM

Well, I raise sheep in Florida, where it is so humid in the summertime that the sheep are green from algae in the wool. We are having a cold-wave here this summer such that the temp has been in the 80s a great deal this summer (winter weather!) and I don't believe it has hit 100 yet. The sea temps are 20 degrees lower than normal, protecting us from hurricanes. Not much evidence of global warming here. During temperate weather like this, I don't bother to turn on the AC (and besides, I get cold and have to put on a long-sleeved shirt or a sweater when it gets below 80).

Having done concrete construction in the south and been bit by the bear a few times (heat exhaustion), I reckon it's all about hydration. Drink even if you ain't thirsty. Lots of water.
Cold showers are good for a fast cool off (as I've awakened on the ground to being hosed down and having ice dumped on me). Good thing my heart wasn't bad.

I won't be pokin' fun at people that cain't stand the heat, because I look like I'm off to the arctic if I have to work outside when the temp is below freezing.

Posted by: SwampWoman at August 16, 2003 at 01:03 PM

As I mentioned before, I'm an expat near Paris. Since my French is dreadful, I don't read the local media, but I'll ask around my co-workers on Monday to find out if they've noticed any radio or TV spots cautioning people about the heat and telling them what they should be doing. I certainly haven't noticed any posters or fliers.

I lost my godmother in a heat wave in New York. Unusual heat can be very dangerous, but it would be very interesting to know if the French government made a reasonable attempt to warn people, or if they simply punted the matter entirely.

Posted by: John Nowak at August 16, 2003 at 06:12 PM

Some sydney-siders might remember sometime last january

45 degrees and humidity, followed by a huge change, two hours later it was 17 degrees driving down to wollongong, that's wacked

And i spent all day painting the decking, ugh. Nothing like walking on deck or bricks in bare feet when it's being beaten down on my 55+ temperatures in the sun

Ahh good thing it's winter now, if you can call a Sydney winter a winter, which you can't....

Posted by: Chris Rice at August 16, 2003 at 06:38 PM

Jacques Chirac take note: this may be divine punishment!

Something like the 1O plagues, perhaps?

Woe on you, Frenchies! This could just be the beginning of your lamentations

Posted by: Karen the Yankee at August 16, 2003 at 10:24 PM

The French reaction to the heat is to get refrigerated tents to hold the dead bodies...

Fucken morons. How about setting up air conditioned stations for the sick and elderly to take refuge instead while they're STILL ALIVE?

It's not the heat, it's the stupidity.

Posted by: Joe C. at August 17, 2003 at 04:22 PM

Do jokes about the death of the French balance out the moral indignation expressed in "The Caring Left" of a while back?

Posted by: Geoff at August 18, 2003 at 09:18 AM

Geoff -- I would think so.

Posted by: Ferg at August 18, 2003 at 05:58 PM

3,000 may be a lowball estimate, although I hope it isn't; 5,000 is the upper limit estimate at this time. And nobody heard any warnings or public service messages.

Posted by: John Nowak at August 19, 2003 at 04:46 AM

Au 'voir health minister.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 19, 2003 at 03:52 PM