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10,000 might have died in heat wave: French minister
August 21, 2003 17:15 IST
The toll in the severe heat wave sweeping France might have touched 10,000, French Minister for Elderly Hubert Falco said on Thursday.
Speaking to the media after a Cabinet meeting, he said though it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number of deaths, 'most probably some 10,000 people had died'.
Falco is the first government official to confirm estimates released a day earlier by France's largest chain of undertakers that the death toll from the heat, when temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius could reach 10,000.
Funeral home chain OGF, which holds about a quarter of the market, said it had counted 2,600 more deaths in the first three weeks of August than in same period of last year.
On Monday, Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei said it was 'plausible' that as many as 5,000 people had died during the heat wave.