Malta bakes in prolonged heatwave

Malta is currently gripped in a heatwave that is affecting southern Europe, causing electricity demand to peak and leading to blackouts in several localities.

It is experiencing a heatwave with temperatures hitting highs of 40 degrees Celsius amid scorching hot weather across the Mediterranean. At times, the temperatures felt like 42 and 43 degrees Celsius, according to the Meteorological Office.

The sweltering heat forced residents and tourists to turn up their air conditioning systems, raising the electricity demand considerably.

The heatwave caused Malta to hit a new peak electricity demand of 624 megawatts on Thursday. Some underground cables were literally melting, owing to high electricity demand and the heat of the ground, with many households ending up without power for hours.

“We first had a power cut of just under twelve hours. It then returned during the day, but went out again in the evening for another 11 hours,” resident David Zammit told Xinhua.

“During the day it’s bearable as you can simply go for a drive in the air-conditioned car, but our power cuts were at night when the heat was simply unbearable,” he added.

Another resident in a locality in the south spent 10 hours without power, forcing her to relocate her elderly mother.

“My mother just couldn’t handle it. She was passing out at intervals so I made arrangements to take her to a relative who lives in an area which was not yet affected by power cuts,” Jenny Grech said.

Malta’s state-owned Enemalta said the sustained heatwave was impacting the energy provider’s distribution network.

Addressing a media briefing on Thursday, Enemalta CEO Jonathan Cardona said the company had registered a new peak electricity demand of 624 megawatts, which was well below its capacity. However, the heat was damaging underground cables, leading to several faults and power cuts.

He explained that the power cuts were not caused by overloading but damage to distribution equipment caused by consistently high temperatures.

Dorianne Bonnici, also a resident, said that while she understood faults do happen, she blamed it on the lack of investment in a proper infrastructure that could cope with the demand and the heat.

“I cannot believe we’re back to using candles as I remember doing in my childhood when we had frequent blackouts,” she told Xinhua.

“We had no power for 11 hours and the ice in the freezer literally melted and there was a puddle underneath it. All the food inside thawed so that’s for the rubbish bin now,” her husband Peter added.

While residents brace themselves for sleepless nights without their fans or air conditioners, there seems to be no end in sight.

“I’ve run out of battery-powered fans because everyone came to buy them so they don’t spend nights in the heat,” Karl Saliba, who owns a shop selling household appliances told Xinhua.

“We also had a surge in sales of air-conditioning units,” he added.

The heatwave is expected to continue until at least Thursday next week, with temperatures forecast to increase from the current 40 degrees Celsius to 41 degrees Celsius as from Monday, the Meteorological Office said.

If the heatwave continues beyond Thursday, it would become the longest heatwave recorded during the summer months in a decade. The longest so far was 12 days stretching from June to July in 2021.

The hottest July temperature on record is 42.7 degrees Celsius, recorded in 1988. It does not seem like this will be surpassed.

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