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Israel broils, breaks record for electricity use

Pvt. Hillel Nehemiah Ofen died during a drill conducted during the heat wave.

Kobi Sarmili removes chickens that died during the heat wave at a farm in Moshav Margaliot, northern Israel, Aug. 14, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
Kobi Sarmili removes chickens that died during the heat wave at a farm in Moshav Margaliot, northern Israel, Aug. 14, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.

Israelis continued to swelter under a heat wave on Monday, breaking records for electricity usage.

The extreme temperatures were blamed for the death of a soldier during a training exercise, the suspension of some flights at Ben-Gurion Airport, and significant agricultural damage.

Temperatures as high as 41°C (105.8°F) were recorded in areas of the Jordan Valley and the Lower Galilee.

Noga, a state-owned company that leads the development, operation and management of the country’s electricity system, said on Monday that Israelis used 15,690 megawatts at 2:53 p.m. on Sunday, smashing a record set on July 25 by more than 300 megawatts. Noga noted that in both instances, half of the electricity usage was for air conditioners.

Noga—The Israel Independent System Operator Ltd., took over the management of the country’s electricity from the Israel Electric Corporation on Nov. 1, 2021.

Heat exhaustion and dehydration were seen as the apparent reasons for the death of a soldier during a training exercise on Monday morning. At around 4 a.m., a commander spotted Pvt. Hillel Nehemiah Ofen lying motionless during a crawling exercise and began administering treatment. Emergency medical personnel were unable to resuscitate Ofen.

The Israel Defense Forces is investigating the cause of death. The IDF said that all outdoor exercises had been stopped due to the heat until 10 p.m. on Sunday. However, when temperatures fell overnight, some outdoor training resumed. All exercises have now been halted until Wednesday at 5 a.m.

Meanwhile, the Israel Airports Authority announced on Monday that some flights landing at Ben-Gurion Airport would be temporarily suspended “due to the weather conditions and its effect on technical systems in the control units, and in order to maintain flight safety.” Travelers were urged to check with their airlines for updates on their flights.

The heat also took a toll on agriculture. According to the Natural Damage Insurance Fund, better known by its Hebrew acronym, KNT, farmers will suffer 20 million shekels ($5.34 million) in damages. The KNT said it received notifications of the deaths of tens of thousands of hens and heat damage to crops. KNT singled out apples and mangoes, which are in the process of being harvested. KNT also noted particular damage to watermelon, pepper, corn, tomato and cotton crops.

Moshav Margaliot, which is located along the Lebanese border, reported to KNT that 10,000 chickens died in one day.

Dr. Jalal Ashkar, director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera, said that while everyone needs to take precautions, people with pre-existing medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat.

“Exposure to extremely high temperatures can cause an aggravation of existing diseases and/or health problems, sometimes to the point of disability and premature death, for example respiratory morbidity,” Ashkar said.

The doctor added, “While the temperature outside is high, the blood vessels in the skin plane expand, which causes more blood flow to them—for sweating that cools the body. As a result, less blood flows to the vital internal organs, such as the heart, liver, kidneys, brain, etc., which may cause severe damage to the functioning of these internal organs, a significant increase in body temperature, loss of consciousness and even death.”

He advised people to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, to remain indoors or at least in shaded areas, and to drink enough to prevent dehydration.

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