TAIWAN - Over 30 people have died in Taiwan in the past two days due to cold weather, according to unofficial statistics.
Daytime temperatures plummeted to 13 or 14 degrees Celsius in Taipei on Thursday and dipped to 12 degrees Celsius Thursday night through early Friday as the winter's first cold front hit Taiwan.
According to the Central Weather Bureau (CWB), temperatures around Taiwan dropped sharply early Friday, with Tamsui, Chiayi and Banciao recording 9.5, 9.6 and 9.9 degrees, respectively.
Temperatures rose slightly during the daytime but are expected to drop again at night, CWB officials predicted.
In mountain areas, meanwhile, mercury dipped below zero, with the lowest temperature recorded on Mt. Hehuan at negative 8 degrees Celsius early Friday.
The CWB said temperatures will rise today, with highs at 21 to 22 degrees Celsius in Northern and Central Taiwan and 25 degrees Celsius in Southern Taiwan, and stable weather will make the day suitable for outdoor activities.
Taipei City firefighting officials said 17 elderly people died suddenly in the city in the past two days.
In neighbouring New Taipei City, the number of sudden deaths on Thursday alone amounted to seven, according to municipal firefighting sources.
In Taoyuan, another northern county, a citizen fell into a coma allegedly due to the frigid weather and died Thursday shortly after being rushed to a hospital.
Three residents of the northern area of Hsinchu were hospitalised with cold-related symptoms Thursday, and two of them died later in the day.
In the southern city of Tainan, three residents reportedly died suddenly Thursday of cold-related problems.
The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) said the death toll is calculated in terms of direct causes of fatality such as diseases or accidents.
According to the agency, frigid weather is not a direct cause of death but rather an environmental factor that could cause an illness to deteriorate.
As emergency room physicians at hospitals do not always mention whether a patient's health is affected by the weather, the HPA said it is not likely to formally tally weather-linked deaths in a death toll.
Meanwhile, the Taipei City government's Department of Social Welfare said Friday that it had opened two temporary homeless shelters the previous day as temperatures were dropping.
A total of 64 homeless people took refuge at the two shelters Thursday, the department said, adding that it will collaborate with charities and non-governmental organisations to provide shelter to more homeless people during the winter season.