Jordan has no respite from rare September heatwave

Schools close and outdoor work banned as temperatures soar for a ninth day on Sunday

A Jordanian Couple views the Jordanian capital of Amman from the Hill of the Citadel, or Jabal al-Qal'a.
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Dozens of schools were closed and workers were barred from outdoor work in Jordan on Sunday as the country toiled through the longest heatwave to hit it in a century.

The heatwave entered its ninth straight day on Sunday, with temperatures 11°C to 12°C above their annual average, and reaching the 40s across Jordan for a fourth consecutive day.

Temperatures were in the 40s in Amman for the past 10 days. Overnight lows continue to be in the 30s and high 20s.

The heatwave, which started on August 29 and is expected to continue until September 10, is the longest and hottest on records going back to 1922, the Jordan Meteorological Department said.

"In Jordan, we typically get such heatwaves in the middle of the summer, and even then we get one or two days maximum reaching 40-degree weather," veteran meteorologist Mohammed Al Shaker, chief executive of Arabia Weather, told The National.

“It is very rare what is going on, especially for September.”

The heatwave is caused by a hot-air mass normally over Saudi Arabia.

It was pushed north-west and directly over Jordan as a result of colder than usual temperature in southern Europe and Egypt.

The port city of Aqaba was the second-hottest place on Earth for two consecutive days on Friday and Saturday, registering a sweltering 48.5°C.

It marked the hottest temperature ever registered in Aqaba, the weather bureau said, and the highest ever recorded in Jordan for the month of September.

Amman twice flirted with its record high of 43.5°C, reaching 43°C in some areas on the outskirts of the capital on Thursday and Friday.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Jordan, 50°C, was in the Jordan Valley in 2002.

At the weekend, two foreign farm workers died of heatstroke and sun exposure in the Jordan Valley.

Both men were in their 40s, medical sources said.

And another suspected heat-related death was reported in Aqaba on Saturday.

After the deaths, the Ministry of Labour on Saturday told employers to not let labourers work in the sun between 11am and 5pm, and to provide them with cold drinking water.

In a first, the ministry on Sunday banned all work in exposed or outdoor areas between noon and 3pm, with fines for employers who do.

With temperatures between 41°C and 46°C on Sunday, Jordan’s Ministry of Education suspended school in large parts of the country, including the province of Aqaba, the northern Jordan Valley and the southern Badia region, for “students’ safety”.

Increased electricity demand and a sharp increase in water consumption – up by 25 per cent in Amman and 30 per cent in Zarqa – led to power cuts and disrupted water distribution across the country.

At a large electronics store in north-west Amman on Saturday, customers looking for air-conditioning units found that all had been sold by midweek apart from a pair of floor models.

“We are used to temperate weather,” said Khaled Hossam, 48, a disappointed customer who had already been to three other shops.

"A few years ago you didn’t need an AC; you barely needed a fan.  “2020 has been a cruel year and has shown no signs of improving its manners.”