BAGHDAD (AP) — Temperatures hovered around 126 degrees in Baghdad on Thursday. Scorching temperatures are normal this time of year, but an unprecedented heat wave prompted Iraqi authorities to declare a mandatory four-day holiday beginning Thursday.

 

The temperature at an airport in the southwest part of Iraq hit 109 degrees Thursday. At the same time, the dewpoint was measured at 90 degrees. Using the American heat index formula, those figures yielded a feels-like temperature of 159 degrees.

Chronic electricity and water cuts in Iraq and other conflict-ridden countries make heat waves like the present one even more unbearable — particularly for the more than 14 million people displaced by violence across the region. In the southern Iraqi city of Basra earlier this month, protesters clashed with police as they demonstrated for better power services, leaving one person dead.

Unlike other countries in the region, Iraq lacks beaches and travel restrictions make it difficult for people to escape the sweltering heat, leaving many — even those fortunate enough to live in their homes — with limited options for cooling off. Some swim in rivers and irrigation canals, while others spend these days in air-conditioned shopping malls.

Several Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, mandate midday breaks when temperatures are at their highest for low-paid migrant laborers during the summer months. But that only provides some relief as many still spend long hours working in the heat and travel to job sites on buses without air conditioning.