By Badry Alqahtani and Usuf Muhammad
Saudi Arabia’s Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) has denied media reports that temperatures this summer could exceed 70 degrees centigrade. The presidency was responding to reports last week that speculated temperatures might break existing records.
A PME statement said: “There is no truth whatsoever to these reports. Temperatures recorded in various parts of the Kingdom this season ranged between 44 and 49 degrees.” It added the highest temperatures, around 52 degrees, were registered in Jeddah, Al-Ahsa and Hafr Al-Batin.
The PME warned against issuing such reports because they could cause unjustified public scare, particularly as the fasting month of Ramadan this year falls during summer.
“We register temperatures according to the guidelines laid down by the World Meteorological Organization,” it added. The presidency said according to these conditions, temperatures must be taken in a shaded place that is well ventilated, two meters above sea level and away from the direct sunlight, buildings and tall trees.
According to a PME report, summer in the Kingdom and the entire Northern Hemisphere started on June 21 and would continue until Sept. 22. The PME said the highest temperature during this period would not exceed 49 degrees centigrade.
Despite the soaring temperatures, it is business as usual in Madinah. After a tour of various parts of the city and meeting local residents on Sunday, Arab News found high temperatures have not affected normal life in the city. Foreign workers were busy working under the scorching sun at several construction sites in the central Haram area and other places despite a Labor Ministry a ban on work in the sun from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. during July and August. People with limited income and daily wage earners have no choice but to work under the sun simply to earn their livelihood.
Awad Al-Matrafi, who sells watermelon from his pickup truck, is one of them. When asked about the hot temperatures, he said laughing: “I don’t know how hot it is but know only that the temperatures are high. However, my only concern is to earn a livelihood for my family. If I stayed at home due to the high temperatures, who will sustain my family?”
Zahid Ali, a Pakistani salesman, told Arab News that he continues to work during summer but takes some precautions to avoid sunstroke. He said: “I avoid direct exposure to the sun in addition to covering my head and consuming more fluids.”
Anees Mulla, a salesman in the central Haram area, said the high temperatures have not affected business.
Muhammad Al-Harbi, a limousine driver, said he works as usual even in extremely hot weather. “Sometimes I leave the vehicle in search of customers while temperatures are high.”
Arab News found that most of the laborers working at construction sites are either unaware or choose to ignore the health hazards associated with prolonged exposure to the sun.
Some companies transport workers in their vehicles during the summer. There are also increasing cases of vehicles’ air conditioning systems and engines breaking down this season.