Record heat broils Japan, prompting warnings

Officials say that the heatwave has killed at least 15 people and has forced the hospitalization of over 12,000 others in the first two weeks of July

— (TOKYO, Japan) Japanese officials issued new warnings Monday, July 23, as a deadly heat wave blankets the country, producing record high temperatures in Tokyo just two years before the city hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics.

japan heatwave
HEAT WAVE. A woman holds an umbrella as she walks along a street in Tokyo on July 23, 2018, as Japan suffers from a heat wave. Photo by Martin Bureau/AFP

 

Officials said last week that the heat wave had killed at least 15 people and forced the hospitalization of over 12,000 others in the first two weeks of July.

But the death toll may be more than double that, with Kyodo News agency reporting 11 people died on Saturday alone (July 21) across Japan.

An updated official toll is expected later this week.

The heat wave has toppled temperature records across the country, with Kumagaya in Saitama outside Tokyo setting a new nationwide record on Monday with temperatures hitting 41.1º Celsius (106º Fahrenheit).

And in western Tokyo’s Ome, temperatures hit 40.3ºC, the first time temperatures over 40 have been recorded in Tokyo’s metro area.

Records fell at 13 other observation stations across the country, with more than a dozen cities and towns seeing temperatures around 40º, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

“People in areas where temperatures are as high as 35º or higher should be extremely careful” to avoid heatstroke, meteorological agency official Minako Sakurai told Agence France-Presse.

“And even at lower temperatures, the heat can be dangerous for small children and elderly people, and depending on the environment and activities you are doing,” she warned.

“People should be all the more careful as many people must be exhausted after days of cruelly hot weather,” she added.

Yoshihide Suga, top government spokesman, warned that extremely hot days “are expected to continue until early August.”

Japan’s disaster management agency has urged people to use air conditioning, drink sufficient water and rest often while at work.

The heat wave follows record rainfall that devastated parts of western and central Japan with floods and landslides that killed over 220 people.

Japan’s summers are notoriously hot and humid, and hundreds of people die each year from heatstroke, particularly the elderly in the country’s aging society.

But this year’s record temperatures have surprised residents and officials alike, and revived concerns about the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be held in July and August in Tokyo.

Olympic officials and Tokyo’s local government are touting measures from solar-blocking paint on roads to mobile misting stations to tackle the heat.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike acknowledged Monday that the recent heat wave was “exactly like living in a sauna”.

“For the athletes, they’re trained but for spectators who are cheering on the road, we may not necessarily be able to say the same,” she said at a Monday press conference.

“Countermeasures against heat is one of the major pillars for the success of the 2020 Olympics.”


by Agence France-Presse | Rappler.com