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Monday 19 March 2018

Iraqi heatwave sees temperatures soar above 50C

An Iraqi man cools off in an open-air shower in Baghdad as temperatures rise above 50C (AP)
An Iraqi man cools off in an open-air shower in Baghdad as temperatures rise above 50C (AP)

Temperatures have soared to 51C in Baghdad as Iraqis endure the hottest day of the year so far.

The government has given its workers Wednesday and Thursday off because of the heatwave, which is expected to break over the weekend.

Iraq's summers are known for their merciless heat, but the government's chief weather forecaster Hassan Abdul-Karim said this week's highs are well above average for this time of year. A similarly unforgiving heatwave is also expected next month, he said.

High summer temperatures routinely compound the woes of Iraqis, who have since the US-led invasion 13 years ago had to cope with almost daily violence, political instability, poor services, a massive exodus abroad of professionals, and high rates of serious crime like kidnappings for ransom, armed robberies and contract killings.

The current heatwave is scorching Baghdad as the city continues to reel from the deadliest single bombing in 13 years on July 3 when nearly 300 people were killed.

Power cuts leave most homes without electricity for a total of 12 hours a day, forcing them to buy power from privately-owned neighbourhood generators.

But just as Iraqis have shown resilience and ingenuity in dealing with the violence, they do likewise when it comes to exceptionally hot days.

"There is no electricity and temperature is very high, so we came to this swimming pool as it is the only way to cool ourselves," said Ammar Adnan, sitting on the edge of the recently opened indoor pool in Baghdad's al-Azamaiyah district.

"We will stay here until the evening, when we hope the temperature will get down," he said.

A few miles away in central Baghdad's busy Sinak market, Kazim Ali was doing a brisk business, selling sweaty shoppers cocktails of a fizzy drink mixed with a syrup of sugar, vinegar and mint.

"I never raise my prices when it is this hot, but the guy who sells me the ice charged me 50% more today," he said.

Street hawkers, some covering their faces with handkerchiefs to keep off the heat, sold slices of cold watermelon or broke a sweat pumping air into children's plastic pools they hoped to sell.

Some shopkeepers were merciful to customers, setting up showers on the pavement that men stood under without hesitation to cool off.


Press Association

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