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Record-Breaking Heat Wave in Israel Sparks Fires, Hospitalizations

TEL AVIV – Temperatures in Israel reached a scorching 47ºC (116.6 ºF) over the weekend, resulting in over 450 people being treated by paramedics and brush fires sweeping the country.

The extreme and unusual weather generated a dramatic increase in the number of calls to Israel’s emergency services MDA. MDA has been handing out stickers to remind drivers not to leave children (or pets) in locked vehicles even for a moment.

Fire and rescue services were called out to eliminate two large brush fires in forested areas and several smaller ones elsewhere in the country.

The heatwave, known locally as sharav in Hebrew or hamtzin in Arabic, drew strong winds from the north all the way along the coast later.

Forecasters said that by Tuesday the heat is predicted to break, and a further drop is expected on Wednesday.

The blistering temperatures could set new records for the month of May. The record for May in Eilat was recorded on May 31, 1980, at 45.2ºC (113.36ºF) – a number that has already been surpassed.

Meteorologist Dr. Baruch Ziv explained that the current heat wave is considered a “subsidence heat wave. It’s caused by the sinking of higher air levels, which is a slow process when the area has a high pressure system, which is semi-immobile. It takes time, and it cooks, quite literally, for a few days. Actually, on Independence Day, we were in its initial stages, but in most parts of the country, it wasn’t felt. And since then, it’s only gotten hotter.

“The temperatures in Israel’s hot season rose by two degrees over 40 years. Our climate is already changing, and it’s going to change further. Coping with it is done by air conditioning, and as a result, there’s a rise in electricity demand, and the implication is that the Earth gets warmer,” he added.

The electricity demand in Israel reached its peak on Sunday at 3:26pm with 11,349 MW used, Ynet news reported. The previous peak demand for the month of May was last year at 11,332 MW. The Israel Electric Corporation has postponed disconnecting customers who have not paid their electricity bills until the end of the current heat wave.

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