Iraqis Take Mandatory Day Off As Heatwave Smothers Mideast | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Africa/Middle East, News

Iraqis Take Mandatory Day Off As Heatwave Smothers Mideast

Posted: Jul 31, 2015 at 7:40 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Iraqi authorities have declared a mandatory four-day holiday beginning Thursday due to unprecedented heat wave.

The government has urged residents to stay out of the sun and drink plenty of water, but for Zakiyah Abdullah, who is eight months pregnant and many of the more than three million Iraqis displaced by conflict, that poses a dilemma.

The temperatures hovered around 52 degrees Celsius (126 F) on Thursday.

Chronic electricity and water cuts in Iraq and other conflict-ridden countries make heat waves like the present one even more unbearable — particularly for the more than 14 million people displaced by violence across the region.

In the southern Iraqi city of Basra earlier this month, protesters clashed with police as they demonstrated for better power services, leaving one person dead.

Unlike other countries in the region, Iraq lacks beaches and travel restrictions make it difficult for people to escape the sweltering heat, leaving many — even those fortunate enough to live in their homes — with limited options for cooling off. Some swim in rivers and irrigation canals, while others spend these days in air-conditioned shopping malls.

Several Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, mandate midday breaks when temperatures are at their highest for low-paid migrant laborers during the summer months. But that only provides some relief as many still spend long hours working in the heat and travel to job sites on buses without air conditioning.

A Filipino migrant rights activist collapsed and later died of apparent heat stroke during a visit to his country’s consulate in Dubai this week.

One of the hottest spots in the Gulf was Kuwait City, where Thursday temperatures were expected to reach 48 C (118 F). The civil aviation authority’s meteorological department forecast daytime conditions as “very hot” and overnight temperatures as “relatively hot,” with moderate winds providing little relief.