Six dead in Tokyo as Japan swelters in heatwave

As Japan is experiencing a rare heatwave during the rainy season, six people have died in Tokyo from heatstroke, leading authorities to issue a flurry of health warnings.

The central Shizuoka region saw temperatures over the weekend rise to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), making it the first place in Japan to do so this year. This is a significant increase over the 35-degree mark that meteorologists had previously declared to be “extremely hot.”

As per an official from the weather bureau who spoke to AFP, there is a powerful South Pacific high-pressure system contributing to the “rather rare” extreme heat in the heart of Japan’s rainy season.

Temperatures also hit record highs near 40 degrees Celsius on Monday at observation posts in Tokyo and in the southern Wakayama region, according to local media.

The past few days have seen authorities issue heatstroke alerts in much of the country, urging residents to avoid exercising outside and to use air conditioning.

The capital logged three deaths linked to heatstroke on Saturday and three more on Monday, when the mercury hovered around 35 degrees Celsius at midday, according to the city’s medical examination office.

“Without the AC on, I find it difficult to survive,” Tokyo resident Sumiko Yamamoto, 75, told AFP, adding she feels “it’s gotten drastically hotter” since last year.

“Through the advice given on TV, I try to stay hydrated as much as possible. Because I’m old, I’m being careful not to collapse,” she said.

In Japan, the country with the second-oldest population in the world after Monaco, heatstroke is especially fatal.

Given her age, Yamamoto falls into the group of people that medical professionals have identified as being most susceptible to heatstroke, along with young children, the elderly, single people, and those who cannot afford air conditioning.

The national mortality toll from heat exhaustion increased from a few hundred each year two decades ago to approximately 1,500 in 2022, according to a warning issued by the Japanese Association for Acute Medicine on Monday.

The group issued a caution against unnecessary travel, stating that the sheer number of deaths indicates that heatstroke now poses a risk comparable to “a major natural disaster”.

Tokyo business leader Mikio Nakahara,67, claims that there is a significant difference between Tokyo now and fifty years ago.

“Tokyo wasn’t as hot as it is now,” he told AFP.

However, these days, “I try to work remotely as much as possible so I don’t have to go outside.”

Travelers like 29-year-old Ainhoa Sanchez aren’t overly shocked by Tokyo’s heat because increasingly scorching summers are becoming the norm everywhere.

“So the plan is going sightseeing a little bit. Drinking a lot of liquids. Maybe when we get too hot, we can get into a shop, look around, chill a bit and then go back to the street,” she told AFP.

This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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