An unprecedented wave of torrential rains and floods that occurred in the desert south of Egypt over the past weekend has left three dead, half a thousand people treated for scorpion stings and significant material losses, in a new example of the threat that represent the variations of the climate for the Arab country.
The severe weather conditions, which also included strong winds and dust storms, began to occur last Thursday night, and have hit the Red Sea mountain range and governorates of Upper Egypt, particularly hot Aswan, in the extreme south of the country. “This can happen in northern Egypt, in the Delta [del Nilo], even in central Egypt, but not in [las sureñas] Qena, Luxor or Aswan ”, explains the director of the Information Center on Climate Change of the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture, Mohamed Fahim, to EL PAÍS. “About 20 years ago there were heavy rains in Asyut, which is in central Egypt, but never in Aswan,” he says.
One of the effects that has generated the most alarm has been the scorpions, which were dragged by the rain in large numbers to inhabited areas, many even inside homes. In total, 503 people had to be treated and received antiserum injections against the bites of these arachnids, which still did not cause any deaths, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Health in a release. Although these incidents are not uncommon in the region, the danger posed by the new scenario led the director of the ministry’s preventive medicine sector, Ala Eid, to recall that the symptoms of the sting are severe pain in the area where the that occurs in addition to the usual symptoms of poisoning, such as fever, sweating, vomiting and diarrhea.
The passage of the storm left around 500 houses totally or partially demolished, which has forced local authorities to have to distribute basic aid and equip some facilities to house the hundreds of affected families, as reported by the Aswan governorate, which he is still examining the damage. Heavy rains also caused several power stations to go out of service, flooding streets and homes, and falling trees and light poles.
Egypt is a country very vulnerable to the effects of variations in climate, which are causing increasingly extreme weather events. “Aswan is in southern Egypt, and this region is not a rainfall area, it is in a dry area, so it is not normal for rainfall to occur at all,” Fahim slides. “The trend of the rains is changing during this period [del año], because we are not in winter, but we are still in autumn. Rain is a strange climatic event in the area, and it is part of these variations in climate change ”, he adds.
The storm registered in Aswan and in the rest of southern Egypt is in line with the forecast by the sixth evaluation report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published last August. In it, the organization warned that, in the Sahara region, where the majority of the country is located – with the exception of its long Mediterranean coast -, an increase in both intense rainfall and rain floods is expected to mid-present century.
“Normally it does not rain much in autumn, but in view of the climatic changes, which affect the whole world and also affect Egypt, the rains were more abundant”, the director of the analysis and forecasting center of the Egypt Meteorological Authority, Mahmoud Shaheen.
This same year, irregular temperatures, increased humidity and variations in seasonal changes recorded in Egypt have already seriously affected mango crops, whose production has fallen between 30 and 50% depending on the place and account, as well as those of olives, which have collapsed about half. According to the IPCC.