“Infernos. At the heart of the heat wave”, on MyCanal: crushed by the heat, France convulses and ignites

Image from the documentary “Inferno.  At the heart of the heat wave”, by Simon Kessler.


Twenty years later, the summer of 2003 remains “the benchmark heat wave in France”, confirms Matthieu Sorel, climatologist at Météo-France. Even if the episodes of high heat are increasing, none for the moment has reached the intensity, duration and mortality of that which occurred in France and throughout Europe that year.

Read also (2022): Article reserved for our subscribers With three episodes of heat waves, the summer of 2022 is the deadliest since 2003

The difference is that today the question is no longer how to avoid heat waves but how to adapt to them. To achieve this, the citizen can legitimately think that the public authorities have learned the lessons of the past. The filmmaker went to meet the professionals then on the front line: firefighters, hospital workers, climatologists and farmers. As he had done for AZF. In the heart of chaosexcellent documentary broadcast in 2021 on the explosion of the chemical plant near Toulouse on September 21, 2001.

In the front row, Evelyne Dhéliat, popular presenter of the weather, embodies the helplessness of the time, unable to predict the return of freshness. “You have to imagine Europe under a bell, invisible, inside which the winds no longer circulate”, explains Matthieu Sorel, calm and fascinating at the same time. Including to recognize, later, that the impact on biodiversity has been totally underestimated.

“Neither accustomed nor prepared”

In the services of the Paris SAMU, “we were neither used to nor prepared”, remembers Dr. Pierre Carli. When on August 4, by 43°C in the shade, he found himself faced with cases of unexplained convulsions, he understood that it was not heat stroke: “At 43°C, you are cooking. » The health system is taken aback. Hospitals are mostly not air-conditioned, they lack beds and caregivers – already!

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Already, again, the emergency physician Patrick Pelloux alerts the JT: “In four days, there have been around fifty deaths due to the heat and the public authorities do not realize the extent of the phenomenon. »

A large part of the film is devoted to the fight against fires, including the one, several days out of control, of La Motte, in the Var, retraced with the help of archives and the stories of Colonel Pierre Schaller, Eric Grohin, Chief of Firefighters, and Grégory Allione, Director of the National School of Fire Officers.

Read also: The 2003 summer heat wave killed more than 70,000 people in Europe, according to Inserm

The heat wave ends on August 16. The movie continues. It will take time to realize the extent, especially in terms of the number of deaths, of the heat wave: “70,000 additional deaths in Europe, including 15,000 in France. » As for the lessons to be learned… The deputy mayor of Lucéram (Alpes-Maritimes), Jean-Louis Dalloni, returns with emotion to the delicate rescue of the isolated farm of Emile Tihy, which was successful thanks to the exceptional mobilization of all the inhabitants, who fought the fire for three days, equipped with simple buckets but united.

Hell. At the heart of the heat waveby Simon Kessler (Fr., 2023, 52 min).

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