Iraqis protest power, water cuts amid heat wave
Most of the country gets only a few hours of power a day, even as temperatures soar above 50 C
Hundreds of residents of Iraq's southern oil-city of Basra demonstrated today over frequent electricity cuts and poor quality of water as a brutal heat wave continues to plague the country.
"In my opinion, all participating blocs have failed and that's the reason for the deterioration of services," protester Sheikh Jassim al Rammahi said.
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Power from the national grid is on only a few hours a day in most of the country, which Iraqis say is difficult to cope with in the searing summer heat.
Temperatures reached above 50 C this week in Iraq, and are expected to stay that high all throughout next week. The relentless heat prompted the Iraqi government to implement a mandatory four-day holiday starting on Thursday.
Chronic electricity and water cuts in Iraq and other conflict-ridden countries make heat waves even more unbearable — particularly for the more than 14 million people displaced by violence across the region.
More than 600 people braved the heat nearing 49 C Saturday in Basra as they protested in front of the governor's office to demand a solution to the long-running problems of extended power cuts and salty tap water. In central Baghdad on Friday, hundreds of people protested for the same reasons.
"Our demands are very simple," protester Al Ali Lami said. "To be fair with Basra in the distribution of electricity and water. All people from Basra are buying water."
Years after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq's national grid still supplies only a few hours of power per day, driving up costs for businesses and compounding the summer heat. Protesters blamed the lack of services on government corruption and waved banners critical of political blocs.
Iraq's infrastructure was severely damaged during the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein and the country has suffered chronic power shortages ever since.
In Basra earlier this month, protesters clashed with police as they demonstrated for better power services, leaving one person dead.
The government has repeatedly promised an end to the crisis, compounded by insurgent attacks since 2003, but shortages have continued and private generators flourished as an alternative.