hundreds of people. World Vision said Iasi County was one of the most affected in the country, with 46 of its 98 communes confronted with lack of water supplies, dried pastures and extreme heath.
In Golaiesti, one of the five communities in which World Vision is present, residents are desperate as there is virtual no harvest and some 1,000 families find themselves unable to feed their animals because of the draught, officials said. Dozens of people have already died in Romania, although unofficial figures were expected to be higher.
In neighboring Hungary medical health officials worry heat, which has reached 42 degrees centigrade, contributed to the death of up to 500 people last week, especially those elderly who do not have access to air-conditioning. Hungary’s chief medical officer, Ferenc Falus, said the government issued the highest level of alert, urging people to stay indoors as much as possible.
"There was some easing of temperatures this week but the government expects the record heat to return…," he said. Health officials say ambulance services have been overwhelmed by phone calls of people in distress. In addition, fire fighters are dealing with wild wires in several parts of the country. City officials in Budapest have been distributing thousands of water bottles to help residents battle the heat and the government has told citizens to stay indoors between 10am and 3pm.
The heat also claimed lives elsewhere in the region and fires caused by the heat have burned down thousands of hectares of forest in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Italy and Greece.
Countries in the western Balkans, including Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro, have experienced widespread power shortages, as demands for electricity surpass the dwindling supply. Albania has cut both the supply of electricity and water to cope with growing shortages.
The latest heat wave has led to calls for a referendum on whether to introduce a siesta in Hungary, a nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal. That moment can’t come soon enough for Csaba Gyarmati, who sells anything from t-shirts to souvenirs in a Budapest shop. "If it’s up to me they can start the siesta now," he said. "I live from tourists. However tourists only go for a walk in the morning or in the evening," the salesman added.
Some health experts have praised the benefits of a daily nap as a stress reliever. But critics claim the midday work stoppage could ruin businesses in today’s global economy. They say it has led to economic problems in siesta nations Spain and Mexico. For now, Eastern Europeans are praying for rain.