Temperatures reach record high as Japanese heatwave continues
At least 40 people have died and another 10 in South Korea amid scorching conditions.
Japan has experienced its highest temperature since records began as a deadly heatwave continued to grip large parts of the country as well as neighbouring North and South Korea.
The mercury hit 41.1C in Kumagaya, a city in Saitama prefecture about 40 miles north-west of Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
This broke the previous record of 41C in Ekawasaki on the island of Shikoku on August 12 2013.
Two lingering high pressure systems have trapped warm and humid air above the region, bringing record high temperatures for nearly two weeks. More than 40 people have died in Japan and about 10 in South Korea.
The 10 who died in South Korea succumbed to heatstroke and other heat-related causes, seven of them last week, the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.
About 1,040 people have fallen ill because of hot weather from May 20 to July 21, an increase of 61% over the same period last year, it said.
South Korea’s highest-ever morning low was recorded in the city of Gangneung, where the temperature was 31C at 6.45am. The morning low in Seoul was 29.2C, a record for the country’s capital, according to South Korea’s weather agency.
The mercury hit 39.9C in the south-eastern town of Hayang, the highest temperature in the country so far this year.
In North Korea, residents fanned themselves on crowded trolleys or protected themselves from the sun with parasols as temperatures in Pyongyang, the capital, reached 34C. Weather reports said even higher temperatures were recorded on the country’s eastern coast.
Thousands of people in Japan have been rushed to hospitals with heatstroke symptoms during the heatwave. Kyodo News agency has tallied more than 40 deaths. Many of the victims have been elderly people who were not using air conditioning.
The temperature reached 39C on Monday in central Tokyo, the highest temperature this year. The worst of the heatwave is expected to be over this week.
Authorities have warned people to stay inside and use air conditioning.
“The weather recently in Japan is like being in a sauna,” Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said at a news conference focusing on the 2020 Summer Olympics, which open in Tokyo two years from Tuesday.
She said that the city has been working to address heat concerns for both fans and athletes.
The marathon and some other outdoor Olympic events will start early in the morning. Other steps include developing road pavements which emit less surface heat, setting up mist sprays and planting tall roadside trees.
Ms Koike also cited traditional ways of cooling in Japan, such as hanging straw screens and spraying water on road surfaces.
“But our traditional wisdom is not enough to beat the heat like this,” she acknowledged, “so we will be using cutting-edge technology.”