French and Belgians try to stay cool as Europe scorches

People cool off in the shade as extremely hot temperatures sweep across Europe, rising to 38 degrees in Paris.

PARIS, FRANCE (JULY 1, 2015) (REUTERS) – Temperatures in France and Belgium broke records on Wednesday (July 1) with the high in the French capital hitting 38 degrees, according to Meteo Paris.

Tens of thousands of people died across Europe in a 2003 heatwave and French authorities tried to reach out to the elderly and vulnerable to make sure they were aware of the dangers of the heat and prepared to face high temperatures for a few days.

Paris city hall opened a few air-conditioned public areas and residents and tourists cooled off in the shade and near fountains.

Passer-by Etienne Barbot said he wasn’t worried the hot weather wouldn’t relent even at night.

“As the day goes on, we will see how high the temperature can rise and see whether tonight we can get some air and enjoy having less heat inside. During the day, there are always some places in the shade but when you are at home it’s more difficult to stand these temperatures,” he said.

Another local, Anne-Laure, said staying hydrated was the key to beat the heat.

“When you are not too old and in good health, you’ll be fine by drinking enough water and walking in the shade, and not too much in the sun. Those targeted are the elderly or those who are sick. When you are in good health, you need to drink and drink enough and not make too much physical effort. And then everything goes well,” she said.

Information boards in Paris displayed announcements for locals and tourists to stay in the shade and drink water.

As much of western Europe braced itself for some of the highest temperatures of the year, sun-lovers soaked up the rays in the Brussels gardens while parents took care of their children.

Jerome Decultot said he was doing what was recommended for his baby.

“Protect the skin by using sunscreen, the head with a sun hat and offer water more often than usual. That’s it. Obviously, avoid direct sun light and favour shade,” he said.

Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and intense as a result of climate change, the United Nations said. Cities particularly were heating up as buildings trapped hot air.