Nineteen more people died from the severe heat wave that has struck Egypt, while 92 others suffered major heat stroke.
This marks a significant rise in the heat wave death toll, from 21 on Monday to 40 by Tuesday, according to Health Ministry reports.
Twenty-eight of the heat stroke patients have been discharged from hospital, while the rest are still undergoing treatment, the ministry added.
Three more deaths reportedly occurred in a detention cell at Shubra police station, but were not included in the health ministry census. The three detainees, who were arrested on charges of drug trafficking, died as a result of shortage of breath due to the heat and overcrowding inside the cell, according to statements by the Qaliubiya security directorate.
“What occurred is the expected result of deteriorated conditions inside detention facilities,” Nasser Amin, a National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) lawyer, told Daily News Egypt, commenting on the Shubra police station deaths.
Based on the council’s visits to many prisons, Amin described that “detainees suffer from poor ventilation and crowded cells, which threatens a catastrophe”.
According to Amin, the number of detainees has tripled, especially inside police stations, and no further measures have been taken to improve the crowded conditions. It has become a common occurrence for detainees to stay in detention facilities for several months without trial or referral to the prosecution, which violates the law and result in crowded cells, he said.
The Ministry of Health said that three people died in the Khanka psychiatric hospital and 10 others suffered severe heat stroke. The ministry noted in its report that they died of heat stroke, but the hospital is currently investigating their deaths. The afflicted were transferred to Abbaseya Psychiatric Hospital and the Banha hospital for fevers.
Ahmed Salah, a doctor who works at Abbaseya Psychiatric Hospital, told Daily News Egypt: “It is very important to pay closer attention to psychiatric patients, as they are less aware of their feelings and needs, by constantly supporting them with needed medicines and drinks to avoid any possibility of dehydration. Some medicines could also have severe side effects.”
Since the start of August, the recorded maximum temperature has regularly exceeded 40 °C while humidity rates reached higher than 90% at certain points of the day. According weather forecasters, the heat wave is not expected to break before 20 August.
Despite the escalating crisis, no combat measures were announced by the cabinet in that regard, which could have included providing public facilities with much needed ventilation. However, the health ministry outlined the symptoms of heat stroke and ways to avoid it through its official newsletter to the public.
Revolutionary Socialists member Ranwa Youssef, the wife of imprisoned journalist Youssef Shaaban, commented on her Facebook page that the prison cells in which her husband is imprisoned are very crowded and could increase the chances of infectious diseases.
Youssef said she witnessed, during her visits to her husband, that more than five fans were prevented from entry into the prison.
Poor conditions extend to many public facilities besides prisons. In Qasr El-Aini hospital, the largest public healthcare facility, a doctor previously told Daily News Egypt that the hospital lacks beds and basic facilities for patients.