Israel in midst of what may be unprecedented heat wave; man dies, schools close
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Electric company sees new record for demand in May

Israel in midst of what may be unprecedented heat wave; man dies, schools close

Passersby pull unconscious man from car in Hadera, but medics declare him dead; many schools say mask requirement in heat makes studies impossible

The street in Hadera where a man was declared dead after being found unconscious in a car amid a heat wave, May 18, 2020. (Magen David Adom)
The street in Hadera where a man was declared dead after being found unconscious in a car amid a heat wave, May 18, 2020. (Magen David Adom)

A man died and another was left in a serious condition Monday by the heat wave that has blasted the country since the beginning of the week.

The series of blisteringly hot days that began Saturday was expected to last until Thursday. Meteorologists said it could end up being the longest such event on record.

Passersby pulled a man, 41, from a car on Sigalit Street in the northern coastal city of Hadera, after they noticed him slumped unconscious inside the vehicle. Magen David Adom paramedics declared the man dead at the scene. Medics said he showed signs of heatstroke and burns to his body from the temperature inside the car.

In Netanya, another man, 63, was taken to Laniado Hospital in serious condition due to the heat. MDA paramedics found him wandering confused on Herzl Street in the central coastal city and gave him breathing assistance before taking him to the hospital.

The Israel Electric Corporation said a new record for electricity use in the month of May was set Monday. Demand at 1:51 p.m. hit 13,291 megawatts, 4.7 percent higher than the previous record — set only the day before.

In Tel Aviv and Eilat, temperatures reached 40.3 Celsius (104.5 Fahrenheit). North of the Dead Sea, temperatures hit 43°C (109°F) while the coolest places in the country, other than the Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights, were Ashdod at 27°C (80°F) and Ashkelon at 25°C (77°F), Channel 12 reported. In the capital, Jerusalem, the temperature reached 36°C (96.8°F).

A bushfire broke out at Neve Ilan, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and firefighters battled the flames there. Another fire closed a section of Route 4.

Several cities cancelled school classes because of the high heat combined with the need for stifling face masks.

In Rishon Lezion, parents said they would keep their kids home for next few days to protest the mask requirement during the heat wave.

In other cities, including Herzliya, municipalities said classes would be canceled on Tuesday. Tel Aviv has told each school to decide on its own whether to scrap lessons.

School children wearing protective face masks preparing to go back to school, May 16, 2020. (Chen Leopold/ Flash90)

Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama Hacohen told Channel 12 news that he had also decided to cancel classes for older students until Sunday.

According to Health Ministry requirements, students in the fourth grade and up must cover their mouths and noses with masks during classes out of fear of spreading the novel coronavirus. Younger children must wear masks only while outside the classroom.

Walla news quoted the Pediatricians Association calling for students to be exempt from the mask requirement.

“Kids wearing masks for long hours is not practical and borders on extremely difficult. Masks that become soaked with sweat are unsustainable,” the organization was quoted as saying.

The renewed shutdowns came just as the country’s schools reopened this week, following two months of closure due to the coronavirus outbreak.

On Sunday, a 60-year-old man died of heatstroke in the southern town of Dimona, the Magen David Adom emergency service reported. Also on Sunday, a 79-year-old resident of the northern town of Yokne’am was rushed to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center unconscious and in critical condition due to heatstroke.

On Saturday night, the Israel Defense Forces canceled all ground exercises through Tuesday, in light of the risks posed by the heat wave, with temperatures predicted to exceed 45°C (113°F) in parts of the country.

The Health Ministry has issued a warning to the elderly and people with health conditions, instructing them to stay indoors, avoid unnecessary physical exertion, and drink plenty of fluids.

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