Heatwave Claiming Lives Across Middle East

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Officials have been prompted to issue health warnings and raise alerts about a potential crisis as a deadly heatwave from the Middle East to parts of Europe has claimed a number of lives.

The Middle East has been sweltering under some of the hottest weather conditions ever recorded, driven by an unusual combination of extreme heat and humidity.

The Istanbul Governor’s office put out an alert on 5th August, urging people to be extra vigilant when swimming in the sweltering heat after 100 people drowned trying to escape 40C temperatures in Turkey.

In Egypt at least 21 people died and 66 others were hospitalised as temperatures soared amid high humidity.

According to Al Jazeera the victims, who all died on Sunday, succumbed as temperatures reached highs of 47 degrees Celsius, in conditions made less bearable by elevated humidity levels.

Fifteen people died in Cairo, four in the western province of Marsa Matruh and two in Upper Egypt’s Qena province, the ministry said in a statement on Monday. Those who died, including seven women, were all aged over 60.

The extreme temperatures sweeping across the Middle East has also sparked protests over unreliable electricity supplies.

Yahoo news report: “Since late July when the heatwave started, there have been an increasing amount of reports of families and children suffering from dehydration, diarrhea and heatstrokes,” said Cecil Laguardia, the communications manager at charity World Vision’s Kurdistan and Iraq outpost.

Three million people across Iraq are displaced — nearly a million are children — and most are living in refugee camps and makeshift shelters. In the city of Basra temperatures have held at 51C this week and are expected to rise to 52C on the weekend.

“As temperatures top 50 degrees this past week, we are gravely concerned for the families on the ground, and in particular how the heatwave will make the already difficult living conditions even harder for children,” said Laguardia. She called for emergency funding to help the situation.

In June the UN in partnership with Iraq released a Humanitarian Response Plan warning that 7.1 million people will require water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, with 4.1 million of them in critical need during the summer.

Protests in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on 31 July called for the firing of minister of electricity Qasim al-Fahdawi after temperatures reached an all-time high of 51C in the city. Temperatures, with humidity, at the same time made it feel like 73C in the Iranian city of Bandar-e Mahshahr. No relief in temperatures for the region is expected in the weeks ahead.

As temperatures reached 45C in Karachi, Pakistan, 750 deaths were attributed to the heat. The victims were mostly elderly or poor people unable to find relief from the high temperatures. Electricity shortages have hit those who can afford air conditioning.

“Those we are picking up from the streets – either in a state of collapse or dead – are often beggars, those who work outdoors all day, drug addicts and persons who get little shelter from the sun,” a spokesman for the Edhi Foundation, which runs a morgue and ambulance services, told humanitarian news site IRIN.

In Cyprus energy demand reached its highest levels this year as temperatures soared to 42C inland and 32C in the mountain regions. Yet the infrastructure, according to government officials, is up to the task.

Not so in Lebanon where restriction on electricity are frequent and residents rely on gas-powered generators to power their air conditioning. Others there aren’t so lucky. There are more than one million Syrian refugees in Beruit fleeing the conflict in their home country.

Thousands of Syrian children are on the streets of Beirut and take shelter under bridges to keep cool. Others are surviving in refugee camps in plastic tents.