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French Prime Minister Questions Heat Wave Death Toll Estimates - 2003-08-24

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin says he has no reliable figures on the death toll from this month's heat wave that scorched his country and much of Europe.

Mr. Raffarin told French radio stations Saturday he finds recent estimates to be contradictory. He says he has asked Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei to determine the exact death toll within a month.

Health officials have estimated that 10,000 people died from the heat wave in France, but that figure has been called into question.

Opposition politicians and social critics have criticized the French government for failing to react quickly enough to the 11-day heat wave. President Jacques Chirac has pledged to correct any apparent shortcomings in France's health system.

The heat wave also devastated Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy, among other countries.