Severe heatwave engulfs Japan after historic rainfall claims over 220 lives

Severe heatwave is affecting Japan just several days after historic rainfall and one of the worst flooding disasters in country’s history left more than 220 people dead. The current heatwave is the result of the layering of two high pressure systems over much of Japan and is expected to continue for the rest of the week, if not longer, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

According to the latest reports, at least 15 people died after temperatures in parts of Japan soared up to 40 °C (104 °F) over the past few days. In addition, more than 10 000 people were taken to hospitals for heat exhaustion or heatstroke by July 18, 2018.

A total of 9 956 people were taken to hospitals by July 14, which is 3.7 times higher than that of the previous week. More than 5 000 of them during this past weekend alone, with Osaka counting the largest number of people in hospitals.

Temperatures on July 15 reached 35 °C (95 °F) or above at 200 location across Japan, JMA said, adding that such high temperatures in July are unusual but not unprecedented.

Inland parts of the country reached 39 °C (102.2 °F) degrees on July 16 which combined with high humidity to produce dangerous conditions, JMA said. On the same day, capital Tokyo recorded 34 °C (93.2 °F).

Temperatures climbed to 40.7 °C (105.2 °F) on July 18 in the city of Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture while the city of Mino, in the same prefecture, recorded 40.6 °C (105 °F) on the same day. The last time such temperatures were reached was in August 2013, The Japan Times reported.

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The heat is affecting relief operations in regions that suffered historic rainfall and resulting floods and landslides in which more than 220 people lost their lives. More than 10 people remain missing in the prefectures of Hiroshima, Okayama, Ehime, Osaka and Nara while thousands of people remain in shelters.

Authorities said that the scale of the disaster is on the same level as that of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

Record rainfall was recorded at 118 official observations posts in the 72 hours to Sunday, July 8. The city of Uwajima in Ehime Prefecture received 364 mm (14.3 inches) of rain between 05:00 and 07:00 local time Sunday, approximately 1.5 times the average monthly rainfall for July in just 2 hours. Many regions received three times their usual precipitation for the month of July.

More than 73 000 rescuers were mobilized.

Featured image: Japan at 00:50 UTC (09:50 JST) on July 18, 2018. Credit: JMA/Himawari-8

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