Japan classifies heatwave as ‘natural disaster’ as hottest temperatures ever recorded claim 80 lives

The Japan Meteorological Agency has classified the current heatwave as a ‘natural disaster.’ The announcement comes as record-breaking heatwave claimed lives of at least 80 people since the beginning of July. The extreme weather is expected to continue into early August.

An ‘unprecedented’ heatwave with temperatures soaring above 40 °C (104 °F) engulfed Japan immediately after one of their worst flooding disasters ever at the beginning of July.

On July 23, the temperatures in capital Tokyo rose to 40.8 °C (105.4 °F) for the first time ever while the city of Kumagaya in Saitama outside Tokyo set a new national heat record, with temperatures hitting 41.1 °C (105.9 °F). This temperature in Kumagaya was reached at 14:16 local time, breaking the previous record of 41.0 °C (105.8 °F) set in Shimanto, Kochi Prefecture in August 2013.

In Kyoto, the temperatures remained above 38 °C (100.4 F) for 7 consecutive days for the first time since measurements began.

The number of people who have been taken to hospitals by Tokyo’s ambulances due to heatstroke this year stood at 3 544 on the same day, already surpassing the 3 454 for the entire 2017.

In the week to Sunday, July 22, at least 65 people died of heatstroke while 22 647 people were hospitals. Both figures are ‘the worst-ever for any week during summer’ since the country’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency began recording fatalities resulting from heatstroke in July 2008.

The agency said Tuesday, July 24, that a total of 80 people have died due to heat and over 35 000 have been hospitalized since July 9.

“As a record heatwave continues to blanket the country, urgent measures are required to protect the lives of schoolchildren,” top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said today.

Less than half of Japan’s public schools have air conditioning, and the figure is only slightly higher at public kindergartens.

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The heat wave has been baking the nation for weeks while survivors of the rain disaster in western Japan continue to recover from fatal floods and hundreds of landslides earlier this month, The Japan Times reports.

JMA said the heatwave is expected to continue into early August, urging people to drink water frequently and take measures to prevent heatstroke.

Featured image credit: nachans

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