Heatwave blankets Japan, kills 14 people over long weekend

Heatwave blankets Japan, kills 14 people over long weekend
A volunteer, for recovery work, uses a pack of refrigerant to a cool down as she takes a break in a heat wave at a flood affected area in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 14, 2018.
PHOTO: Reuters

TOKYO - An intense heatwave killed at least 14 people over a three-day long weekend in Japan, media reported on Tuesday, and high temperatures hampered the recovery in flood-hit areas where more than 200 people died last week.

Temperatures on Monday, a national holiday, surged above 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 Fahrenheit) in some inland areas and combined with high humidity to produce dangerous conditions, the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

At least 14 people died from the heat over the long weekend, media reports said, including a woman in her 90s who was found unconscious in a field. Thousands more were treated in hospitals for heat-related conditions.

The heat was most intense in landlocked areas such as Gifu prefecture, where it soared to 39.3 Celsius (102.7 F) in the town of Ibigawa on Monday - the hottest in the nation. The capital Tokyo recorded a high of 34 Celsius on Monday.

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Temperatures in parts of western Japan hit by deadly floods reached a high of 34.3 Celsius by midday on Tuesday, creating dangerous conditions for military personnel and volunteers clearing mud and debris.

"It's really hot. All we can do is keep drinking water," one man in Okayama told NHK television.

Temperatures of 35 or above - known in Japanese as"intensely hot days" - were recorded at 200 locations around Japan on Sunday, the JMA said, which is unusual for July but not unprecedented.

Similar scorching temperatures were reported from 213 locations on a July day in 2014.

Last year, 48 people died from heat between May and September, with 31 deaths in July, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

The current heatwave was due to 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 JMA said.

At least 64 killed in Japan after 'unprecedented' rain

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    The death toll from unprecedented rains in Japan rose to at least 64 on Sunday after rivers burst their banks and forced several million people from their homes, media reports said, with more rain set to hit some areas for at least another day.

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    Torrential rains pounded some parts of western Japan with three times the usual precipitation for a normal July and set off landslides and sent rivers surging over their banks, trapping many people in their houses or on rooftops.

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    "We've never experienced this kind of rain before," an official at the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) told a news conference. "This is a situation of extreme danger."

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    At least 64 people were killed and 44 missing, national broadcaster NHK said after the death toll had been put at 49 overnight.

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    Japan's government set up an emergency management centre at the prime minister's office and some 54,000 rescuers from the military, police and fire departments were dispatched across a wide swath of southwestern and western Japan.

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    "There are still many people missing and others in need of help, we are working against time," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

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    Evacuation orders remained in place for some 2 million people and another 2.3 million were advised to evacuate, although rain had stopped and floodwaters receded in some areas.

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    Landslide warnings were issued in more than a quarter of the nation's prefectures.

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    Roads were closed and train services suspended in parts of western Japan. Shinkansen bullet train services, resumed on a limited schedule after they were suspended on Friday.

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