Macedonia declares state of emergency due to heat wave

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Macedonian government declared a nationwide state of emergency on Thursday in face of a heatwave that is predicted to get worse.

As forest fires rage across the country, temperatures of over 44°C (111°F) are predicted for the weekend. The emergency plan, which has been implemented for at least two weeks, reduces working hours to six hours a day, calls for special shifts for outdoors workers, and warns people to stay out of the sun and take other common sense precautions.

The new working hours for state and public workers are from 7am to 1pm indoors, and two shifts of 7am to 11am and 6pm to 8pm outdoors. All pregnant women have been given paid leave. Although these measures are not compulsory for the private sector the government has recommended that they are adopted where possible. It is expected that lost time will be made up through Saturday working over the rest of the year.

According to Pande Lazarevski, director of the government's Crisis Management center, over 200 fires have been registered across the country, destroying roughly 2,500 hectares of land, mainly forests.

Health services have seen an increase in emergency calls and the Red Cross has teams on stand-by.

Meteorologists have explained that the soaring temperatures are caused by a heat mass from Africa, and have predicted that temperatures will start dropping next weekend.

At least 35,000 people died in the European heatwave of 2003.