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Egypt: Citizens struggle with soaring temperatures amid ongoing energy crisis

As a heatwave sweeps across the Middle East, people in Egypt face intolerable conditions fuelled by constant power cuts
Buildings with dimmed lights in the upscale neighbourhood of Garden City, Cairo, 25 October 2022 (AFP)

Across Egypt, people have been left frustrated and struggling to complete daily tasks in the heat because of constant power cuts.

The power cuts, which are primarily affecting villages in Upper Egypt, as well as the Delta region and Cairo, come amidst soaring temperatures. 

Temperatures recorded in Egypt this year have ranged between 40C to 50C.

With power cuts lasting around six hours in some areas, many are finding it difficult to stay cool and go to work, with concerns also being raised about the wider impact this could have on the country's economy if the situation continues.

The severe power outages started last month, with the government cutting electricity from street lamps as well as other services.

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Mohammed Younis, an Egyptian-based energy researcher, said that the power cuts have affected people from all walks of life, especially as people and the infrastructure are not equipped to deal with such high temperatures without air conditioning. 

“There have been many complaints about the power cuts in homes in Egypt, with remote areas being badly affected and they don’t receive a lot of coverage in the media,” he told Middle East Eye. 

Rising discontent 

According to officials in the country, the power cuts are a result of the country’s energy grid being put under pressure because the heatwave has created a high demand for electricity to power fans and air conditioning.

The constant power cuts are a source of frustration in Egypt.

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“People are angry, even public figures who were neutral about the government have started to criticise the power cuts,” Younis said.  

Last week, the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC) issued a statement calling on people to avoid using elevators, in order to avoid being trapped in them due to power cuts. 

According to Younis, Egypt’s elderly have been some of the worst affected by this.

“Many people get trapped in the elevators and they can’t go up six or ten floors every day, multiple times,” he said. 

The EEHC reiterated that the country is experiencing record levels of national electricity consumption.

Despite frustrations being vented about the crisis, it is unclear whether the government is implementing any plans to tackle the power outages. 

Increased frustration 

The anger has also spilled out online, with dozens of people expressing their anger over the electricity shortages and voicing the different ways their daily life has been affected. 

Many have been using a number of different hashtags to speak about the topic, and have also called on Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to intervene and find a solution for the long power outages. 

Some have even shared videos of their streets at night completely blacked out, with citizens using flashlights to navigate. 

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“This is the fourth time the light has been cut out, going on for five hours. Where is the statement that is supposed to come out?” one frustrated social media user wrote in a tweet.

Egypt’s prime minister, Mostafa Madbouly, issued a statement claiming that the recent power outages were a result of increased consumption and pressure in the country as temperatures have continued to rise.

“We are currently in a period of temporary load easing until the networks return to normal pressures,“ he said in a cabinet meeting last week, mentioning that it has also had an impact on the country’s gas.

Madbouly also stated that various measures would come into place to ration the consumption of electricity. 

The statement was met with dissatisfaction from people online, who continued to criticise the government’s response to the ongoing crisis. 

“The government is supposed to issue a respectable statement, enough placing the blame on people, people are about to explode. The electricity cutting out along with terrible weather and increased prices of goods… all of this and he comes out with a statement like this? Have mercy on people,” one person wrote on Twitter. 

Egypt has been experiencing power cuts during the summer months for the past few years, with the blackouts disrupting daily life and taking a toll on businesses. 

While the power cuts have not yet affected medical centres and hospitals, experts warn that if the crisis continues, it could have far-reaching impacts.

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