Japan yesterday recorded its highest temperature ever as a deadly heat wave continued to grip a wide swath of the country, and South and North Korea.
The mercury hit 41.1°C in Kumagaya, a city in Saitama Prefecture that is about 65km northwest of Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
That broke the previous record of 41°C in Ekawasaki on the island of Shikoku on Aug. 12, 2013.
Two lingering high-pressure systems have trapped warm and humid air above the region, bringing record-high temperatures for nearly two weeks.
Thousands of people in Japan have been rushed to hospitals with heatstroke symptoms during the heat wave.
Kyodo news agency has tallied more than 40 deaths. Many of those killed have been elderly people who were not using air conditioning.
The temperature yesterday reached 39°C in central Tokyo, the highest temperature this year.
The worst of the heat wave is expected to be over this week.
Tourists in Tokyo’s historic Asakusa District struggled with the heat.
Cosett Romero from Mexico said she and her family were getting headaches.
“It’s difficult to us because we don’t have this heat in Mexico,” she said.
Authorities warned people to stay inside and use air conditioning.
“The weather recently in Japan is like being in a sauna,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told a news conference that highlighted the 2020 Summer Olympics, which is to open in Tokyo two years from today.
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 would start early in the morning. Other steps include developing road pavements that emit less surface heat, setting up mist sprays and planting tall roadside trees.
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 said. “So we will be using cutting-edge technology.”
“It is so hot these days that I cannot figure out whether I am in [South Korea] or in Southeast Asia,” said Kim Sung-hee, a student in downtown Seoul, where the temperature rose to 35.7°C.
Ten people have died in South Korea of heatstroke and other heat-related causes this summer, seven of them last week, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.
About 1,040 people have fallen ill because of hot weather from May 20 to Saturday, an increase of 61 percent 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 31°C at 6:45am.
The morning low in Seoul was 29.2°C, a record for the country’s capital, according to South Korea’s weather agency.
The mercury hit 39.9°C in the southeastern town of Hayang, the highest temperature in the country so far this year.
In North Korea, people fanned themselves on crowded trolleys or protected themselves from the sun with brightly colored parasols as temperatures in Pyongyang reached 34°C.
Weather reports said even higher temperatures were recorded on the country’s eastern coast.
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