A man walks past a dried-up fountain in Tehran.

A man walks past the dried-up Cheshmeh-Ali natural fountain in Shahr-e-Rey neighborhood in the south of Tehran, August 2, 2023.

(Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

'Unprecedented Heat': Iran Closes Offices and Schools as Temperatures Soar

Ministry of Health spokesperson Pedram Pakain called the number of heat-related admissions that hospitals had seen so far "alarming."

Iran on Wednesday began the first day of a two-day shutdown imposed by extreme heat.

Government spokesperson Ali Bahadori Jahromi announced on the state Islamic Republic News Agency Tuesday that offices and businesses would shutter for the next two days in anticipation of temperatures as high as 40°C, or 104°F.

"Given the unprecedented heat in the coming days and to protect public health, the Cabinet has agreed with the Health Ministry's recommendation for a nationwide shutdown on Wednesday and Thursday," Jahromi said in a tweet translated by The New York Times.

Temperatures were already higher than 104°F in more than a dozen cities Tuesday and were predicted to hit 102°F in the capital of Tehran. Things were even hotter in the south of the country, where the city of Ahvaz surpassed 123°F, Reuters reported.

These temperatures could especially harm children younger than 4, adults older than 65, and anyone with blood pressure issues, heart disease, or diabetes, Iranian Deputy Minister of Health Saeed Karimi told state media. Karimi said that hospitals would be prepared to treat patients suffering from the impacts of the heat.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Pedram Pakain called the number of heat-related admissions that hospitals had seen so far "alarming," as Deutsche Wellereported Tuesday.

"Without thoughtful adaptability measures, some parts of the country may face limited habitability in the future."

The closure applied to judicial offices, schools, and banks and also canceled sporting events.

Iran's heatwave comes as the climate crisis has brought extreme high temperatures to three continents. Scientists said that this past June was the hottest June on record, and this July was likely to be the hottest month overall. One study found that July heatwaves in North America and Europe would have been "virtually impossible" without the burning of fossil fuels, and a heatwave in China was made at least 50 times more likely.

"Oil and gas are killing people now," Just Stop Oil tweeted in response to the news of Iran's shutdown. "Licensing more is murder. It's a betrayal of young people."

Iran—and the Middle East as a whole—is extremely vulnerable to the climate emergency, according to DW and The New York Times.

"Iran is experiencing unprecedented climate-related problems such as drying of lakes and rivers, dust storms, record-breaking temperatures, droughts, and floods," the authors of a 2019 Scientific Reports study found.

They predicted that, as global temperature rise, Iran would experience more high temperature extremes in its south, more dry days, more days of high precipitation, and more flooding from 2025 to 2040 when compared with 1980 to 2004.

"Without thoughtful adaptability measures, some parts of the country may face limited habitability in the future," the scientists warned.

Iran has not typically called heat holidays, though the government did change its working hours in June to an earlier shift to save energy, according to The New York Times. The high heat has taxed an aging electrical grid in need of repairs that are hard to finance in the face of U.S.-imposed sanctions, and two power plants had disconnected from the national grid as of Tuesday.

Some Iranians suggested it was this strain on the grid, and not the heat itself, that had prompted the shutdown.

"The reason for the closures tomorrow and the day after is not the heat," Tejarat News editor Marziye Mahmoodi said in a tweet translated by the Times. "The superpower of the region doesn't have electricity!"

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