Israelis flock to national parks amid scorching heat

Temperatures reach over 104 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of the country, with heatwave expected to continue for days

A snail hides in his shell as it hangs to a dry stalk while the sun rises over a field in  Hadera, July 13, 2023. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
A snail hides in his shell as it hangs to a dry stalk while the sun rises over a field in Hadera, July 13, 2023. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Israelis on Saturday flocked to nature reserves even as a blistering heatwave settled over the region, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and above in some parts of the country.

According to the Israel Meteorological Service, temperatures reached 33°C (91°F) in Jerusalem, while in Tel Aviv they were 30°C (86°F). In the southern resort town of Eilat, the mercury hit 43°C (109°F).

The sweltering heat was expected to continue until Monday evening, before slightly easing on Tuesday though remaining elevated for days.

The Nature and Parks Authority reported some 60,000 people visited national parks and reserves, enjoying the country’s natural springs.

The most popular sites were Gan Hashlosha and Horshat Tal, which drew 3,100 and 2,400 visitors, respectively.

Around 7,000 people also stayed at camping grounds overnight. The sites with the most visitors were Achziv, Horshat Tal, Ma’ayan Harod, Ashkelon and Eshkol.

Children cool off in Ein Aviel springs near the community of Aviel, July 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Health Ministry has warned the public, particularly the elderly and others whose health is compromised, to avoid the heat and sun in the coming days as well as physical exertion, and to remain in cooler environments and drink water.

The public has also been forbidden from starting fires in the open due to an increased risk of out-of-control blazes.

Record heat is also forecast around the world from the United States, where tens of millions are battling dangerously high temperatures, to Europe and Japan, in the latest example of the threat from global warming.

Italy faces weekend predictions of historic highs with its health ministry issuing a red alert for 16 cities including Rome, Bologna and Florence.

The meteorological center warned Italians to prepare for “the most intense heatwave of the summer and also one of the most intense of all time.”

The thermometer is likely to hit 40°C (104°F) in Rome by Monday and even 43°C on Tuesday, smashing the record 40.5°C set in August 2007.

The islands of Sicily and Sardinia could wilt under temperatures as high as 48°C (118°F), the European Space Agency warned — “potentially the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Europe.”

Greece is also roasting.

“Parts of the country could see highs as much as 44°C (111°F) on Saturday,” according to the national weather service EMY. The central city of Thebes sweated under 44.2°C (112°F) on Friday.

A delivery man drinks water in Thessaloniki on July 14, 2023, as Greece is hit by a heatwave. (Sakis MITROLIDIS/AFP)

The Acropolis, Athens’s top tourist attraction, closed for a second day straight Saturday during the hottest hours with 41°C (106°F) expected, as did several parks in the capital.

Regions of France, Germany, Spain and Poland are also baking in searing temperatures.

Morocco may be used to hot weather, but it was slated for above-average temperatures this weekend with highs of 47°C (117°F) in some provinces — more typical of August than July — sparking concerns for water shortages, the meteorological service said.

Water-scarce Jordan was forced to dump 214 tons (194,000kg) of water on a wildfire that broke out in the Ajloun forest in the north amid a heatwave, the army said.

In Iraq, where scorching summers are common, along with power cuts, Wissam Abed told AFP he cools off from Baghdad’s brutal summer by swimming in the Tigris River.

But as Iraqi rivers dry up, so does the age-old pastime.

With temperatures near 50°C (122°F) and wind whipping through the city like a hair dryer, Abed stood in the middle of the river, but the water only comes up to his waist.

“I live here… like my grandfather did before me. Year after year, the water situation gets worse,” said the 37-year-old.

While it can be difficult to attribute a particular weather event to climate change, scientists insist global warming — linked to dependence on fossil fuels — is behind the multiplication and intensification of heat waves in the world.

The heatwaves come after the EU’s climate monitoring service said the world saw its hottest June on record last month.

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