Schools close on red alert, hottest June ever

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Primary pupils were sent home early on Friday, as soaring temperatures reached a high of 45 degrees Celsius, and most public schools are not well equipped to handle the scorching heat.

The Ministry of Education ordered all state schools to close early after a red alert was jointly issued by the Health Ministry, the Labour Inspection Department and the Meteorological Dept., warning that temperatures could get close to the all-time high of 46.2C ever recorded in June.

The alert is valid from 11am to 5pm.

Temperatures peaked at 44C throughout last week, with a brief reprieve over the weekend, only to rise again later this week.

Weather forecasters said the temperature is expected to drop by Sunday.

Education Minister Athina Michaelidou said that the safety of all children is of primary concern, and that “we are considering all scenarios” if the heatwave continues, extending the schools’ closure.

Lower secondary students have completed most of their exams to transition from the Gymnasium to the higher-level Lyceum, and many elementary schools plan to hold their graduation ceremonies next week. However, university entrance exams are already underway, and will not be affected.

“Most of the parents opted not to their children to school today,” the Minister said, adding that the programme for the installation of air conditioning units is being fast-tracked and should be completed within three years.

“Planning for this programme had been terminated for many years and it was decided not to install air conditioners in schools,” she said.

The minister explained that it was not only about installing new cooling units, but also ensuring that the schools can handle the additional load.

On Thursday, the ministry announced that ten schools in Nicosia and ten in Limassol were selected to receive the new air conditioners immediately followed by a plan for 30 more schools islandwide, both elementary and secondary.

“If the conditions change, then our target could be brought forward to complete the programme sooner than three years,” Michaelidou said.

According to KitasWeather, the temperature could peak at 46C later on Friday, but the extreme thermal aerial mass would subside by Saturday, with the heatwave moving away from the inland to the southern and south-eastern coastal areas.

The temperature is expected to remain around 40C early in the next week, which is still considerably higher for June, up by 7 to 12C than normal.

KitasWeather also warned that the conditions to spark wildfires and to spread remain extremely high.