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Heatwave in Europe may have caused more than 20,000 ‘excess’ deaths – SABC News

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Summer heatwaves in France, Germany, Spain and the UK have led to more than 20,000 “excess” deaths, according to a report compiled from official figures on Thursday.

In 2022, temperatures from Paris to London reached almost 40 degrees Celsius or higher, and climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution Group found that such high temperatures would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change.

The 2003 heatwave caused more than 70,000 excess deaths across Europe, mostly in France, and prompted many countries to introduce measures such as early warning systems, asking people to check on others and opening air-conditioned schools.

This and related action plans may have eased some of the effects of the 2022 heatwave, but the death toll was still “higher than expected,” said Chloe Brimmicombe, a heat researcher at the University of Graz in Austria. “I think it’s … the worst heat since 2003,” she told Reuters.

Because authorities do not attribute most deaths directly to heat, statisticians use an excess formula to provide an estimate of how many more people died in a given period than would be expected compared to a historical baseline.

Heat can kill by causing heat stroke that damages the brain, kidneys and other organs, but it can also trigger other illnesses, such as a heart attack or breathing problems.

This month, the World Meteorological Organization said Europe had warmed more than twice as much as the rest of the world over the past three decades, and the Copernicus Climate Change Service said the summer of 2022 was the hottest on record.

France reported half of the excess summer deaths in Western Europe, with a total of 10,420 deaths.

The excess deaths reached 3,271 in England and Wales over the summer, Britain’s Office for National Statistics said.

Spain recorded 4,655 heat-related deaths between June and August, while Germany’s health agency reported 4,500.

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