Sweltering Iraq declares four-day weekend

BAGHDAD- A searing heat wave forecast to sweep through Iraq prompted the government to declare a four-day holiday starting on Thursday and order regular power cuts at state institutions.
With temperatures expected to surpass 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) for at least the second time this month, the government decided to designate Thursday and Sunday official holidays, the cabinet said in a statement news-flashed on state television. The weekend in Iraq is Friday and Saturday.
Summer temperatures normally reach up to the mid-40s Celsius and can cause frequent power shortages because the electricity grid has been worn down by years of war and under-investment.
Electricity supplies collapsed in the chaos after the US invasion in 2003 when power plants were looted or not properly maintained. Islamist insurgents have targeted transmission towers and other infrastructure in subsequent years, while the Baghdad government has been unable to keep up with demand.
The electricity grid will probably supply only 11,000 megawatts of Iraq's 21,000-megawatt peak demand this summer, the electricity minister told parliament last week.
In a separate statement posted online on Wednesday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered programmed electricity cuts at state institutions and at the homes of all government officials.
Iraq's punishing summer heat has stirred angry street protests over the nation's feeble power supply. A protester was killed and two others wounded earlier this month during a demonstration against power shortages near the southern oil hub city of Basra, police and local officials said.
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