Baghdad (August 10, 2017): All state employees in Iraq were given a day off on Thursday as an extreme summer heatwave gripped the country.
Temperatures in the capital of Baghdad reached 50C by midday, and around 48-49C in other major cities such as Mosul in the north and Basra in the south.
While searing heat is a part of every Middle Eastern summer, an issue from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office said that government workers were not expected to come into work because of the exceptionally brutal conditions.
Heatwaves in Iraq normally knock out power supplies. On Thursday many people on social media reported that their electricity or air conditioning had stopped working for hours at a time.
The country broke heat records in 2016: last July, Basra – at 54C – became the hottest place on earth outside Death Valley. At the time Baghdad declare a mandatory four-day holiday to help people cope.
The conditions in Iraq this year are impacting the fight to drive the last Isis militants from the country following their defeat in Mosul in June.
The fighters cling on in Hawija and Anbar, driving internally displaced people to flee fighting every day.
New arrivals often reach camps after walking for hours, dodging Isis IEDs (improvised explosive devices), sniper and mortar fire – a journey even more dangerous while dehydrated under the scorching summer sun.
Southern Europe and Canada have also been affected by heatwaves which have caused devastating wildfires in the last month.
The 2017 increase in extreme weather is due to global warming, scientists say.
European Commission research released last week predicted that 150,000 people a year could die as a result of extreme weather events by 2100 if the world does not combat the effects of climate change.