Ahead of impending heatwave, Punjab decides to close all schools from May 25 to May 31

Published May 20, 2024
Schoolchildren buy ice candy from a street vendor in Rawalpindi amidst a heatwave on May 20. — APP
Schoolchildren buy ice candy from a street vendor in Rawalpindi amidst a heatwave on May 20. — APP

With temperatures expected to soar due to an impending heatwave, the Government of Punjab has decided to close all public and private schools in the province from May 25 to May 31 in order to ensure the safety of students.

Severe heatwaves will sweep most parts of the country over the coming days, the Meteorological Depart­ment warned last Thursday, forecasting dust storms, thunderstorms, and heavy rains in the country’s northern areas.

The presence of high pressure in the upper atmosphere will result in heatwave conditions in most parts of the country, especially Punjab and Sindh from May 21 and a severe heatwave from May 23 to 27, the advisory had warned.

In light of the advisory, the provincial government in Punjab decided today to close schools for seven days.

However, a notification it issued stated that examinations will still be carried out “as scheduled”, with “necessary precautions to ensure the safety of students”.

The decision to temporarily close schools came after the Punjab government last week reduced the timings of all public and private schools from May 18 to May 31.

It had also instructed school heads to ensure that fans were in working condition, water coolers were available and that no student was made to sit in an open space or school lawn during the summer.

Given the instructions of PDMA Punjab, the Health Department also issued a heatwave advisory. A PDMA spokesperson said, “from May 21 to May 27, there is a severe risk of heat wave in Punjab.”

The PDMA predicted intense heat in the Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan districts of South Punjab and instructions were issued to set up heatwave counters in all hospitals and ensure the supply of all related medicines.

DG PDMA Irfan Ali Khan said that citizens are being informed about the dangers of heat wave through print, electronic and social media. “All departments can fight heat wave by working together and cooperating,” he added.

DG PDMA further said the heat wave is expected to last for at least 10 days and added that the public is requested to take precautionary measures.

“Avoid exertion and exercise in strong sunlight,” he said. “Do not step out of the house unnecessarily […] wear light coloured cotton clothes”. He urged the public to call PDMA Helpline 1129 or Rescue 1122 in an emergency situation.

Meanwhile, Punjab Education Minister Rana Sikander Hayat announced a holiday for all educational institutions from May 25 onwards due to the heat wave.

“The opinion of respected teachers and parents is important to us and the safety of children will always be our priority,” Hayat posted on X. He urged collective and individual action against climate change in his post, which included the notification to close schools.

Hayat warned that action would be taken against any school violating the order. No date was given for reopening schools in his statement.

Punjab’s decision to close schools came a day after Sindh postponed matric exams in the province from May 21 to 27.

According to the notification dated Sunday, the decision was taken “in the wake of the heat wave alert issued by the NDMA & PDMA”.

“The SSC Part I and II 1st Annual Examination, scheduled to be held from May 21 to May 27 2024 are hereby postponed,” the notification reads, adding that the exams would continue with effect from May 28 onwards.

The Sindh government issued the new schedule today, saying that exams will now be held from May 28 to May 31.

Temperature across Sindh to be 2-8°C higher than usual: Met Dept

Meanwhile, a revised forecast from the Met Office on Monday predicted that the temperatures across the province will be 2-8°C higher than usual, depending on the areas.

It also stated that the temperatures in Karachi division for the next three days would vary between 35°C and 38°C.

Describing the weather as “hot and humid” for all three days, the advisory added that areas including Dadu, Larkana and Shaheed Benazirabad would experience temperatures as high as 8°C above normal.

On Saturday, Shaheed Benazirabad recorded a maximum temperature of 48.5°C — the highest in Sindh over the weekend.

On Friday, the provincial government held a high-level meeting to assess the situation and form a strategy to tackle the heatwave, while health experts called upon the authorities to ensure supplies of clean water, gas and electricity to the public so they could protect themselves from the heatwave.

Heat wave alert issued for Sindh

PDMA Sindh also issued a heat wave alert on Monday, urging citizens and authorities to take precautions amid the intense weather.

Deputy Commissioners and District Disaster Management Authorities were ordered to ensure that heatstroke treatment centres are open at all public and private hospitals and to supply cold water and medication to those affected by heat.

Additionally, district level authorities were instructed to coordinate with national organisations to aid citizens travelling over long distances and proactively monitor for natural disasters such as forest fires.

Meanwhile, the public was advised to keep hydrated and avoid exposure to sunlight from 11:00am to 3pm, as well as to cover their heads when outdoors.

First aid information was also given regarding treating heatstroke. Citizens have been instructed to treat others by wetting their skin, immersing them in water or, if they can drink, giving them lassi, cold water or drinks containing salts such as Oral Rehydration Salts to prevent the loss of electrolytes. Citizens were urged to consult a doctor after administering first aid.

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