Japan’s weather agency has declared the current heatwave sweeping the country a “natural disaster”. The record-breaking heat has claimed the lives of at least 80 people since July 9.
An agency spokesman warned that “unprecedented levels of heat” were being seen in some areas, with the city of Kumagaya reporting a temperature of 41.1C (106F), the highest ever recorded in Japan.
In central Tokyo, temperatures over 40C were also registered for the first time.
The country’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Tuesday, July 24, that a total of 80 people have died due to heat and over 35,000 have been hospitalised since July 9.
“We are observing unprecedented levels of heat in some areas,” spokesman Motoaki Takekawa said, adding that the heatwave was “a threat to life and we recognise it as a natural disaster”.
With less than half of Japan’s public schools equipped with air conditioning, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the summer holidays could be extended to protect pupils.
“As a record heatwave continues to blanket the country, urgent measures are required to protect the lives of schoolchildren,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.
The heatwave closely followed torrential rain that caused severe flooding and landslides in the west of Japan — swings from extremes, and further signs of our changing climate.
JMA said the heatwave is expected to continue into August, urging people to drink water frequently and take measures to prevent heatstroke.
[Featured Image: Issei Kato, Reuters]