Iran shuts down for two days due to 'unprecedented heat'
Iran on Tuesday declared a two-day holiday for government workers and banks nationwide as searing temperatures sweep the country, state media reported.
The decision came after the meteorological office forecasted temperatures exceeding 40°C in many cities and nearly 50°C in the south-west.
"The cabinet agreed to the Health Ministry proposal to declare Wednesday and Thursday public holidays all over the country to protect public health," the official Irna news agency quoted government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi as saying.
It said the decision was taken because of "unprecedented heat" sweeping the country.
The Health Ministry also warned of the risks of heatstroke from overexposure to the Sun and urged people to stay indoors between 10am and 4pm.
Ministry spokesman Pedram Pakain described the number of heat-related illnesses in recent days as "alarming".
In June, Iran changed summer working hours so government employees could start earlier, to save electricity in offices when temperatures peak.
The south-eastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan has been among the hardest hit by the heatwave.
About 1,000 people have received hospital treatment there in recent days because of rising temperatures and dust storms, Irna said.
The region has long faced severe water shortages, which on Monday triggered protests over an upstream dam in Afghanistan restricting water flow, the Tasnim news agency said.
July was probably the world's hottest month on record, based on an average of global temperatures, according to scientists.
Iran, with a population of more than 85 million, is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change and the rise in global temperatures.
Like nearby states, it has suffered extreme dry spells and heatwaves for years, which are expected to worsen as climate change continues.
It has also endured repeated droughts as well as regular flooding, made worse when torrential rain falls on sun-baked earth.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's National Centre of Meteorology has forecast high temperatures of between 46°C and 50°C across the kingdom until the weekend.
Egypt announced scheduled power cuts from Tuesday amid a continuing heatwave that has intensified pressure on the country’s electricity grid and natural gas supplies.
Last month, as the country had some of its hottest temperatures on record, the government began cutting power in selected areas of 24 of Egypt’s 27 provinces amid a significant rise in power consumption as citizens stayed at home and kept their fans and air-conditioning units on.