A sweltering heat wave has swept through Tunisia, disrupting both electrical and water supplies just days before Ramadan begins. Extreme heat destabilizes electrical cables, with as many as three cables a day fraying under the pressure in some cities. Disruptions in the electricity supply in turn cause water pipes to malfunction, leaving many homes, businesses and hospitals without a steady supply of either.
In a surprise but welcome move that prioritizes people over commerce, the National Water Supply and Distribution Company (SONEDE) in Gabes cut its water supply to a chemical company that has long threatened the southern city’s water resource.
The National Institute of Meteorology reports that an unprecedented rise in atmospheric pressure from the great desert is responsible for the heat wave that has caused such havoc in Tunisia, according to Tunisia-Live.
Temperatures of 42-47°C have been recorded in the past week, reports engineer Sahar Shickhawi.
“All the temperature data that we gather are from shaded areas, but sunny areas are normally 4-7 °C hotter, so we must account for that. In the summer, we are used to the temperature being in between 32-36 °C in the coastal areas and 38 to 42 °C the interior regions in the month of July,” Shickhawi explained.
Although energy shortages have rarely lasted for more than two hours, according to SONEDE employee Mohamed Sadoke, which pales in comparison to 12 hour energy shortages in Lebanon, Gabes residents preparing for the Ramadan fast are concerned.
Energy and Water Shortages Become “Complicated”
One housewife told Tunisia-Live that the situation is becoming more “complicated.”
But for hospital workers and patients, the shortages are more than complicated. Men and women with broken legs haven’t received treatment at the Regional Hospital of Gabes since the X-Ray machines can’t function without electricity. And Hospital Tahr Sfar atop a mountain on the coast was without water for nearly a week.
In order to alleviate supply disruptions to Gabes residents, SONEDE has cut off water supply to the local chemical manufacturing plant which has historically used more than its fair share of both water and electricity.
“We cut the water supply on the chemical complex because we have to prioritize,” said Mbarak Haddad, the switch board operator of Gabes SONEDE.
In Gabes, people are more important than chemicals.
:: Tunisia Live
Image credit: Blue water pots in Tunisia, Shutterstock
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