TEL AVIV (May. 16)
Israelis were promised relief Monday night from one of the worst heat waves in the country’s history, which has caused crop damage estimated in the millions of dollars and at least one heat-related death.
According to the meteorological service, temperatures that soared over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the past two days will drop by 10 to 15 degrees by Tuesday, which is “near normal’ for this time of year.
The intense heat was accompanied by a hot, dry, desert wind that Israelis call the Sharav. It was once known by its Arabic name, Khamsin, and is indigenous to the region.
By any name it can be a killer because of the widespread fires started and fanned by the wind. Fire brigades all over Israel were kept busy Sunday and Monday battling blazes in forests, fields and brush. Hundreds of acres of crops have burned in Galilee. Chickens, which cannot perspire, died by the scores.
Yarra, a village in northern Galilee, had to be evacuated when a grass fire spread to houses adjoining the fields.
The Tel Aviv fire brigade reported a dozen or so brush fires in the metropolitan area, but no serious damage was caused. But elsewhere in the country, light aircraft were called on to help fight fires.
The director of the emergency ward at Ichelov hospital in Tel Aviv reported that 250 people were treated for heat exhaustion Sunday, two or three times the normal daily average. Most of the patients were elderly.
The only death directly attributed to the heat wave was that of the assistant manager of a Ramat Hasharon supermarket Sunday. It occurred because of an electric power failure — caused by heavy use of air conditioners — which shut down the store’s deep freeze and refrigeration units.
The assistant manager, accompanied by an Arab employee, went to the basement to switch on an emergency generator. He lit a candle and ignited fuel oil stored nearby and was burned to death. The Arab worker was injured.