Up to 114 degrees in France: Record-breaking heat in Europe forces tourists to adapt

France saw its hottest day ever, reaching 114.4 degrees on Friday, while records were also broken in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Image: France heatwave
People bathe in the Trocadero Fountain in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris during a heatwave on June 28, 2019.Zakaria Abdelkafi / AFP - Getty Images

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By Linda Givetash

PARIS — Europeans aren’t breathing a sigh of relief just yet following a day of record-breaking heat, with temperatures soaring once again on Saturday.

The unusual heat has left many struggling to cope in the French capital where homes and buildings are not designed for steamy conditions or equipped with air conditioning.

“We were not expecting this, so when we booked our Airbnb, we literally didn’t check that it doesn’t have air conditioning,” said Sampada Jadhav, 32, sitting under the trees at the Jardin du Palais Royal with her spouse Jay Ghag.

The pair — who split their time between Mumbai, India and Bakersfield, Calif. — are used to the heat but were hoping for more comfortable temperatures.

Jay Ghag, 34 and Sampada Jadhav, 32 seek shade in the Jardin du Palais Royal in Paris on June 29, 2019 as heatwave continues to bake Europe.Linda Givetash

Jadhav said they changed their sight-seeing plans to ensure they’d be in museums and other attractions that are climate controlled during the hottest times of the day, and Ghag packed a bag full of water bottles.

The week-long blast of hot air from the Sahara sparked a massive wildfire in Spain and brought France its hottest day ever, with temperatures reaching 114.4 degrees in the southern town of Gallargues-le-Montueux.

Records were also broken in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

The situation is reflective of a global trend in extreme weather.

"Between 2000 and 2016 the number of people exposed worldwide to heatwaves increased by an estimated 126 million," the World Meteorological Organization said in a statement Friday, adding that it puts people at risk of heat stroke, dehydration and cardiovascular diseases.

Conditions did not relent on Saturday, with much of France expected to exceed 104 degrees yet again.

But not everyone appeared to be suffering in the baking capital city.

The U.S. women's soccer team was celebrating a place in the World Cup semifinals after triumphing over a hostile Paris crowd and near-record heat in the capital city to beat host France 2-1 on Friday evening.

“Parisians don’t sweat,” said Mina Park, 31, on holiday with her friends from Los Angeles. “Literally in the subways, I would look at everyone else. They’re not sweating and in jackets and we’re glistening.”

Laura Marquez, left , Mina Park and Ariel Min make a short stop at the Louvre Museum in Paris on June 29, 2019, before going to find shade in the heat wave.Linda Givetash

At the Jardins du Trocadero meanwhile, across the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower, the large fountain was transformed into a swimming pool as dozens of people jumped in to cool off from the abrasive sun.

French authorities nonetheless maintained an orange alert — the second-highest heat warning — for most of the country, reminding the public to stay hydrated and check on their neighbors over fears of conditions becoming lethal for both the very young and old.

In 2003, a similar staggering heat wave killed 15,000 people in the country — prompting the significant public health awareness campaign this week.

In Paris, parents Anila and Satyam Gurung could attest to the effects the heat was having on children.

Their four-year-old son Mason was demanding regular breaks for drinks and ice cream, being accustomed to cooler conditions in England, Anila said.

“He doesn’t want to go anywhere, he keeps saying ‘mommy, no it’s too hot,’” she said.

The notable decline in foot traffic on the streets was bad news for vendors at a weekly farmer’s market.

Nestor Abouzi, 45, said he’d only sold two items of his African-style art by noon local time. “Normally, there are many people,” he said.

The heat didn’t stop Nathan Dijoux, 18, and thousands of other people taking to the streets of central Paris for the annual Pride march — although it did cause patches of asphalt on the parade route to melt.

“Just because it’s really hot, it’s not that I shouldn’t come here,” Bijoux said after nearly three hours of marching. “I’m here to show I’m supportive.”

Firefighters had hosed the marchers with water along the route, he added, making the heat more bearable.

Looking on from the final stretch of the route, Michael Borunda, 35, said he wasn’t going to let the heat wave prevent him from missing his first Pride parade in the city.

“I lived in Chicago for five years and heat never stopped anybody; it doesn’t matter how hot it is,” he said, as more people pressed into the crowds.

Forecasts show the heat will finally break Sunday, according to the meteorological organization Meteo-France, with temperatures returning to normal for most regions of the country by Tuesday.

Nancy Ing contributed.