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Archive for Sunday, August 24, 2003

France’s heat death toll figures called unreliable

August 24, 2003

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— French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin expressed anger Saturday with his government's inability to pinpoint the number of deaths from a scorching heat wave, calling recent estimates unreliable.

Raffarin, in an interview with several radio stations, cast doubt on France's recent staggering estimate of about 10,000 dead from two recent weeks of scorching temperatures that reached 104.

Raffarin said he was unable "to obtain reliable figures (when) I see day after day estimates here, projections there and forecasts that announce contradictory figures."

The prime minister, whose center-right government has been criticized for mishandling the crisis, said he told Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei "in the firmest way possible" to determine the precise toll within a month.

Approval ratings for both Raffarin and President Jacques Chirac slumped after the heat crisis, according to an IFOP poll to be published in today in Le Journal du Dimanche.

The poll showed that 43 percent of French people had favorable opinions of Raffarin, compared with 54 percent for Chirac -- a drop of 2 percentage points each since July.

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