For The Second Time In A Month — A Heat Wave Is Scorching Europe

Jul 25, 2019
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For the second time in a month, a heat wave is scorching Europe. Temperatures are breaking records across the continent, sending millions of people scrambling to stay cool. We checked in with our correspondents in France and Germany to see how they're faring in countries that don't typically have air conditioning. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris begins our coverage.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Paris has never been this hot. The temperature soared to nearly 109 degrees Fahrenheit today, breaking the previous record of 104 set in 1947.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN SCREAMING)

BEARDSLEY: Parisians, most of whom don't have air conditioning, were desperate for somewhere to go. And the fountains at the Andre Citroen Park provided relief for kids and adults. Accountant Rachida Lasri took the day off to bring her three children. She says the heat is unbearable.

RACHIDA LASRI: (Through interpreter) We did not sleep a wink last night. And my son had a nosebleed. We had to get out of the house today. It's really extreme to have two heat waves like this in one month. We're not prepared. There's no doubt this is coming from climate change. And we're probably going to have this every summer now.

BEARDSLEY: Jennifer Rincon is a tourist from Colombia.

JENNIFER RINCON: Yes, now I come here to Paris, like, two months ago. And the heat is so hard.

BEARDSLEY: Is this is like Colombia?

RINCON: Colombia is a Caribbean area. For example, almost all the places, there is AC. And in the condos, there is swimming pool, so it's easier.

BEARDSLEY: Paris, which is usually in the 80s in the summer, is not built for this kind of heat. It's so bad the trains had to be slowed because of tracks swelling in the heat. The high-speed train linking Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam suspended ticket sales. Even Notre Dame is suffering. The chief architect of rebuilding at the cathedral said the intense heat increases chances the cathedral's vaulted ceiling could collapse. It's not much better elsewhere in Europe.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: This is Deb Amos in Berlin. Temperatures in Germany were the highest ever recorded at 108 - the hottest day this week in a country that dismisses air conditioning as something Americans do. Here fans and personal cooling systems are sold out. Employers complain this heat stifles productivity. Schools close when temperatures soar. Only 2% of German homes are mechanically cooled. Pedi Mezila, who works in a sweltering office at a film company in Berlin, says a generation of Germans believe air conditioning makes them sick.

PEDI MEZILA: Because they're always thinking they will get a cold.

AMOS: But it's really hot. Are they rethinking that?

MEZILA: No.

AMOS: Her office mate Tim Kouger agrees.

TIM KOUGER: I don't know why we don't think about it, but we don't.

AMOS: Even this hot you don't think about it.

KOUGER: No, not really (laughter). It would be awesome, but maybe we need to rethink. It's way too hot, especially at work.

AMOS: But more Germans are rethinking. They say heat waves are the new normal, and climate change is here to stay. Air conditioning installers have been flooded with calls as Germans absorb more drastic signs of a changing climate. Germany's forests are on the verge of collapse, according to a study out this week. More than a million trees have died due to drought and winter storms.

Deborah Amos, NPR News, Berlin.

BEARDSLEY: And I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIDI'S "MUM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.