Climate

Extreme Heat Leads To Deaths, Protests In The Middle East

CREDIT: AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

Protesters chant anti-Iraqi government slogans and wave national flags in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have braved the scorching summer heat to stage a huge protest in central Baghdad against government corruption.

At least 21 people have died and 66 more have been hospitalized as a major heat wave engulfs Egypt and much of the rest of the Middle East.

High humidity levels and temperatures as high as 116.6°F made conditions deadly for Egyptians in Cairo, Marsa Matruh province, and Qena province. All of those who died were over 60, according to Al Jazeera — an age group that’s among the most vulnerable to heat waves.

“There is a big rise in temperature compared with previous years. But the problem is the humidity which is affecting people more,” health ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghaffar told Al Jazeera. “Long exposure under the sun is a killer.”

Egypt isn’t the only country suffering from extreme heat in recent weeks. Last month, higher than average temperatures also hit Turkey, and 100 people who tried to escape the heat by swimming in pools and lakes ended up drowning.

In Basra, Iraq, temperatures this week are supposed to stay steady around 123°F, the Guardian reports. Temperatures in the country are so high that on Thursday, the Iraqi government implemented a four-day holiday so that residents wouldn’t have to go to work in the heat. Last week, Iraqi citizens protested power outages that have made dealing with the extreme heat more difficult — in some regions, the BBC reports, it’s common to only have power for a few hours each day.

“All of the people we spoke to here say they want to see an end to rampant corruption, they want the return of basic services, they want electricity, they want to have air conditioning at a time when Iraq is experiencing a blazingly hot record heatwave and they want to have clean water,” Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom reported from Iraq.



Last month, Iran likely registered the second-highest heat index on record: 165°F. The Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr hit an actual registered temperature of 115°F, but with a dew point temperature of 90, the air felt so hot that the heat index went off the charts.

Europe, too, has been struggling with extreme heat in recent weeks. On Saturday, Warsaw, Poland set a record for highest August temperature of 97.9°F. High temperatures in Poland has forced the country to implement its first power supply cuts since the 1980s. The cuts affect industrial businesses but won’t affect residents, Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said Monday. She urged Polish residents, however, to curb their power usage between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“The situation resulting from the heat wave is serious and we have bad forecasts for the next 10 or 11 days,” Kopacz said.

Heat has claimed lives around the world this year. In May and June, an extreme heat wave in India killed more than 2,300 people and melted roads. In some regions of the country, temperatures reached as high as 122°F. In India — and in other countries with aging grids — high heat often comes with fears of power outages, as increased use of air conditioning makes it difficult for infrastructure to keep up with power demand. Pakistan, too, endured a major heat wave this summer, and lost more than 800 lives because of it.

Science has shown that climate change has the potential to make heat waves more frequent and more intense. A study published last month found that climate change doubles Europe’s risk of a heat wave. And a study published in April found that 75 percent of the Earth’s “moderate daily hot extremes” can be linked to climate change, meaning that heat events that in a non-warming world would occur in one out of every 1,000 days occur, in our modern, warming world, in four or five out of every 1,000 days.