Gulf countries in grip of heat wave

June 21, 2010

The heat wave gripping the Middle East has hospitalized labourers working under the scorching sun, broken down electricity substations, taken power stations to their ominous limits and caused lethal protests.

However, weathermen said that while people should take all precautionary measures, they should not panic and should learn to deal with the situation. In Kuwait City, the minister of electricity and water said that people should worker together to address the difficult situation and not turn it into a self-serving political issue.

In Bahrain, officials from the Meteorology Directorate said the weather might have exceeded normal averages, but it should not be a source for concern.

“We had last week temperatures of more than 42C on a few occasions, but they quickly came back to under 40C thanks to shamaal, the northerly wind. When this wind blows, the weather is cooler,” one official said. “What we are witnessing today is a heat wave affecting the region, but people should not panic. The temperature today is 38 degrees Celsius, down from 46 degrees Celsius on Sunday,” he said. “The northerly wind has helped bring it down and we hope that the weather will remain fine.”

However, for many people, it was an opportunity to use their Black Berry mobiles links to show off pictures of car indicators recording temperatures of more than 50 degrees Celsius.

“I simply could not resist taking a picture of the car indicator as a memory of this exceptionally hot days,” Tariq Belghith, a communication engineer, said as he flashed into a smile and displayed his mobile reading 54C.

Salmaniya Medical Complex, the country’s largest hospital, said that it had received some cases of heat exhaustion. However, all cases were mild and were treated promptly.

Bahrain has for the last three years banned open air work between noon and four pm throughout the months of July and August. The country did not announce plans to bring forth the date as a result of the current heat wave.

In Oman, reports said that the highest temperature for the year so far has been 47.5 degree C recorded on June 15 at Khasab, which neighbours Fujairah in the UAE. However, the country’s record remains 51 degrees Celsius since May 31, 2009.

In Kuwait, lawmakers urged the government to shorten the summer working days by two hours and allow public sector employees start the day 30 minutes earlier and go home at noon instead of 2.30 pm to help face the extreme conditions and alleviate pressure on electricity substations.

Kuwait has been facing an ominous power crisis that many attribute to blatant mismanagement.

Last week, the northern Arabian Gulf country had to monitor electricity consumption closely following an unexpected rise in demand caused by the highest temperatures in more than 30 years.

In neighbouring Iraq, angry protesters clashed with the police and hurled stones at provincial council offices amid growing rage over power rationing in the summer heat that allows Iraqis to receive power for only one hour in five in temperatures that have been topping 50 degrees Celsius.

In Saudi Arabia, a local newspaper quoted a meteorologist warning that temperatures could this week soar to 80 degrees Celsius the sun in desert areas.

Dr Khalid Al Jamaan said that temperatures would also soar in cities where high-rise buildings reduce air circulation and factories emit carbon dioxide.

Officials said that they were monitoring the rise in temperatures and denied allegations that meteorologists were not giving the true figures in order not to disrupt regular work.

“There is nothing to hide and we announce the temperatures as they are without changing them,” Husain Al Qahtani, the head of meteorology in Riyadh, said. “The temperatures people record in their cars are affected by various factors.”

In Qatar, car experts have been publicly offering tips for safe driving in the high temperatures affecting cooling systems, tyre pressure and batteries.  



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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