Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1258, (13 - 19 August 2015)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1258, (13 - 19 August 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Dying in the sun

Forty people died in the past few days due to a heat wave that has hit the country, reports Reem Leila

Dying in the sun
Dying in the sun
Al-Ahram Weekly

The Minister of Health announced on 11 August the death of 40 people of sunstroke and 92 others suffering from symptoms of heat stroke all over the country. According to the press release issued by the ministry, the deaths were among old people and most cases of illness occurred in Upper Egypt.

Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar, the official spokesman of the ministry, pointed out that 26 deaths took place in Cairo, with another three in a mental health hospital in Qalyoubia, three in Sohag and one in Luxor. Other deaths are scattered across different governorates. “Sixty-one cases have already been released from hospital, while the remaining 31 are still under medical supervision,” Abdel-Ghaffar said.

Since older and younger people are most susceptible to this heat wave, Abdel-Ghaffar urged everyone but particularly the elderly, those who suffer from chronic diseases and children to take all the required precautions against sunstroke. These include avoiding direct exposure to the sun, especially around noon, not leaving home unless absolutely necessary, drinking a lot of water and fresh juice, walking in the shade and wearing hats while they walk in the streets.

“People should cool down their body temperature either by taking several showers a day or using fans and air-conditioning where possible to avoid heat stroke,” Abdel-Ghaffar explained.

Since the beginning of August, the recorded maximum temperature has regularly exceeded 45 °C while humidity was higher than 90 per cent at certain points of the day. According to weather forecasters, the heat wave is not expected to let up before 20 August.

“If any person suffers from vomiting, headaches or dehydration, especially among the elderly and children, they should immediately head to the nearest doctor,” Abdel-Ghaffar added.

Official spokesman to the Egyptian Metrological Authority (EMA) Wahid Seoudi said temperatures in the capital and other parts of the country were higher than average this time of the year by four to five degrees. “A high percentage of humidity compounded the effects of high temperatures on citizens. The heat wave is expected to persist throughout the country until the end of August,” Seoudi said.

According to Seoudi, the 2015 summer temperatures are the highest in history since the readings started being officially taken.

Yet the temperatures forecast by EMA do not always reflect the heat that Egyptians have been suffering during the past weeks, leaving many wondering why their cars and mobile phones display temperatures reaching 50 °C.

“The difference which people feel is due to the measurement methods used by EMA, which are internationally recognised,” Seoudi said.

In 1992, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) defined air temperature as “the temperature indicated by a thermometer exposed to the air in a place sheltered from direct solar radiation”.

“EMA temperatures are measured inside a wooden booth placed on an altitude of a 1.5 m in agricultural land. The booth is usually placed in an area sheltered from direct solar radiation. Therefore, we usually expect an additional five to ten degrees Celsius of the forecast temperatures in the sun,” Seoudi explained.

According to WMO, for meteorological purposes temperatures are measured using a number of variables, the most common being  air temperature at different heights. Other variables include ground, soil, grass and seawater temperatures.

On 8 August, the heat wave gave way to a fire in a starch and glucose factory in Qalyoubia.

For its part the Ministry of Electricity and Power warned people against excessive use of electrical appliances like washing machines and vacuum cleaners, as well as air conditioning units, so as to avoid too much pressure on the electricity grid and subsequent power cuts. Power cuts have notably decreased in Cairo but are still commonly reported in other governorates.

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