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Heatwave: Living at 40C in Abuja, Delhi, Madrid and Sydney

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    1 day ago

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Image source, EPA

Much of the UK is experiencing a heatwave, with temperatures expected to rise even further to hit up to 42C (107.6F).

People have been advised to avoid non-essential travel and many have been working from home. Some schools have closed early, or chosen not to open at all, while the extreme heat is putting pressure on the health service.

But countries where temperatures are usually higher have adapted their infrastructure and lifestyle to cope with the heat. Our correspondents explain how.

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Banner saying Australia

By Jay Savage in Sydney

There is no extreme temperature threshold that forces Australian schools to shut. For some students, this knowledge can really melt your icy pole [ice lolly].

Instead, schools aim to keep students as safe and comfortable as possible. Policies vary between states. Many classrooms have air conditioning but others rely on a patchwork of measures.

These include using fans, altering uniform rules, creating spaces with better ventilation, and encouraging students to bring water bottles. Outside, students are advised to seek shade.

PE classes should be avoided in the middle of the day, officials say. New South Wales, for instance, suggests “scheduling sport in the mornings and swimming carnivals in the evenings” as examples of alternative approaches.

Staff are urged to watch for signs of heat stress. Parents can apply sunscreen to children before school and make sure they have a hat, according to advice notices.

It is a different story, of course, if a school is under threat from bushfire. Hundreds of campuses were closed during Australia’s Black Summer blazes in 2019-20.

Banner saying India

By Geeta Pandey in Delhi

The maximum temperatures in the Indian capital, Delhi, are hovering around 38C at the moment – a lot lower than the peak of 49.2C we recorded in mid-May. But there really is no respite. Poor rainfall and high humidity took the city’s heat index – the “real-feel temperature” – to 56C on Monday.

When the heat takes over, people are advised to drink plenty of fluids and stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day. And those who must venture out either take their own cars or air-conditioned taxis if they can afford it as much of the public transport is basic and lacks air-conditioning.

A girl selling water uses an umbrella to protect herself from the sun as she waits for customers on a hot summer day in Delhi on 27 April

Image source, Reuters

Over the past two decades though, commuting in the city has improved with the introduction of the Delhi Metro. With fully air-conditioned coaches and air-cooled stations, it is the preferred mode of transport for the city-dwellers.

A Metro spokesperson says “the network is designed keeping in mind the extreme nature of our weather” and that, for the past 20 years, the system has “not had any problems” related to high temperatures.

Meanwhile, the train network – often described as the backbone of India’s economy – functions largely normally during the harsh summers. The train tracks are laid with a gap in between which allows them space to expand with heat when temperatures hit high 40s.

Banner saying Nigeria

By Nduka Orjinmo in Abuja

Average temperatures in most parts of Nigeria are around 34C, so it is usually hot more than it is not. A comparative reaction to the heat wave sweeping through Europe would be temperatures dropping below 15C here.

So forgive those who are slightly confused that schools have been shut in parts of Europe and people asked to stay indoors for temperatures that most people here deal with for most of their lives.

There is no special infrastructure built for the heat, and no public warnings – we do get one for floods though.

However, when it gets really hot in northern states like Sokoto and Borno between February and April before the rains come, people sleep outdoors to escape the heat trapped in the walls while others pour buckets of water on their mattresses before lying on it.

But at dawn they are out again, children to school and most adults to their farms under scorching 40C that can last for days.

Banner saying Spain

By Guy Hedgecoe in Madrid

Spaniards tend to be used to high summer temperatures, at least in southern and central parts of the country. Many businesses open during the morning, before having a lengthy hiatus after lunch and reopening in the late afternoon.

This practice is not exclusively due to the heat but it does make the working day more bearable. Similarly, Spaniards’ tendency to socialise relatively late – often after a supper at 22:00 or later – means they go out when the temperature is not as high.

A total of 36% of Spanish homes have air conditioning, according to a study carried out by property portal idealista in 2021. In the notoriously hot southern city of Seville that percentage rises to 73%, but it drops to only 1% in the cool northern cities of Vitoria and Lugo.

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