She certainly can can-can

Robin has somehow found herself pet-sitting a total of five dogs and nine cats this week and I often get dragged along. I'm afraid of two of the dogs in one of the houses, so she relegates me to the basement with the other one and Max and I watch the International Channel.

Last night the coverage was subtitled French news. I was aware that there had been a heat wave in France and that people had been suffering and even dying, but I hadn't realized how serious it was. According to what I was watching, the estimations are that more than 10,000 people have been killed by the heat. Tours is reporting their death rate at 180% of the normal.

I feel so dumb and ignorant for not having realized how serious the situation was until now. I feel detached. It was so nice to see French news last night and catch up on everything that's important over there but doesn't make it over here. I don't want to lose touch like that.

Here's a bit of song and dance (from a U-M alum!) that I've been listening to all week, about being caught between France and the US (translation in the extension):

Certains vont à Cannes pour finir leur vie
D'autres se rangent en Californie
Mais quand viendra l'heure de me retirer
Je serais sans doute bien embêté

A moins peut-être que j'aille passer gaiement
Ma retraite sur un voilier tout blanc
Et couleur des jours pacifiques
Au milieu du ciel atlantique

Côté banjo there's always San Francisco Bay
Côté violon toujours Paris au mois de mai
Côté raison, je me sens quelquefois d'ailleurs
Mais d'ici côté cœur...
- Joe Dassin, Côté banjo, côté violon

srah - Friday, 22 August 2003 - 2:16 PM
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Comments (5)

gravatar Jez - August 22, 2003 - 3:22 PM -

Weeellll....they're exaggerating wildly, as per usual. It didn't go over 45C (dunno what that is in fahrenheit), and while that is certainly hot, it's no reason for 10,000 people to die. The last figure I heard was 3000. That was a couple of days ago, and now it really isn't so hot. Even that 3000 figure I don't believe for one moment. Perhaps 3000 stupid people sat out in the sun all day and didn't drink any water, in which case the gene pool is much better off without their contribution. I think the heat may have been a contributing factor to some deaths, but no way did 10,000 people die because of the heat. That's absurd.

gravatar denzylle - August 23, 2003 - 5:16 AM -

The thing with the heat is that, unlike North America, (let's just keep it to first world countries here), most of Europe is not prepared. Where I am, we had eight consecutive days of temps over 80F. Highest where I was was 95, but it did hit 100 at Heathrow and was the highest since UK records began. France had it much worse, with a longer period and much higher temperatures. They also had serious fires in the South.

I know you guys in the US and Canada will say 'so what?' but few homes here have a/c, many workplaces (including mine) do not, and public transportation is absolute hell. Without a fan, all I can do is open windows. In my own experience, the *only* place I felt OK during those eight days was in stores.

And, like Chicago, a few years back, it's the old and poor who die, in the main. The French authorities are saying now that shopping malls should have been kept open so that people could sleep there and that that would have saved lives.

gravatar denzylle - August 23, 2003 - 5:43 AM -

Jez, I read your reply after I wrote my own. I don't know where you are; I'm in London.

I can't believe you said it didn't go above 45C, like 'so what?' 45C is 113F. Can you imagine that with no access to a/c?

The Guardian is reporting 10K deaths and I'm inclined to believe it. If they were saying 3K, I don't think the inflation is due to the fact that time has gone by. Yeh, it's much cooler now. I think it's due to the fact that deaths are only now being reported as heat related.

The fgures for the dead are coming from the cities so, again, it's the elderly and the poorer people who don't get an August vacation. And, in the case of old people, it's likely death would be ascribed to natural causes with no autopsy being performed.

At the time, the authorities had no comprehension of the extent of the problem or of how to deal with it. The minister responsible spoke on TV from his a/c villa in the South of France on his vacation.

And even the battiest, sunshine starved 'mad dog and English[man]' isnae gonnae sit out and try to get a tan at 113F, is he?

gravatar srah - August 23, 2003 - 10:25 AM -

I would like to know what the normal death rate would have been for that period...

gravatar katie - August 25, 2003 - 8:49 AM -

I was also unaware of the problem. Usually I'm at least aware of the headlines, but not this time. I was horrified to hear from my dad this weekend that 10K had died. But I can agree with Denzylle that Europe really is unprepared for this kind of thing, so I can believe the numbers, as awful as it is.

The thing is, no matter how prepared a country may be, Nature is more powerful. Nature will always win, in the end. We seem to forget that even when we build big cities with lots of technology, we're still outside, because there's no alternative.

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