TOKYO • Temperatures neared 40 deg C in many Japanese cities yesterday as a scorching heatwave continued to grip Japan, as well as neighbouring South Korea.
The severe heatwave killed at least 15 people, mostly the elderly, in Japan and sent more than 12,000 to hospital in the first two weeks of this month, official figures show.
"It's like a sauna," a 50-year-old woman in Tajimi, Gifu Prefecture, told Japan Times newspaper.
The cities of Tajimi and Mino, both in Gifu Prefecture, recorded temperatures of 40.7 deg C and 40.6 deg C last week, the first time the mercury in the country hit the 40-deg-C mark in almost five years.
The last time the mercury topped 40 deg C was in August 2013, when a reading of 41 deg C -the country's highest on record - was observed in the Kochi prefecture.
Yesterday was the ninth day in a row that temperatures have exceeded 38 deg C in parts of Japan, reported broadcaster NHK.
The scorching weather shows no signs of easing with extremely high temperatures forecast to continue through Thursday, said Japan's Meteorological Agency.
"Risks of heatstrokes are particularly high," it said, urging citizens to drink enough water and use curtains and air conditioning.
The education ministry has told schools to postpone outdoor activities on hot days. A six-year-old boy died of heatstroke last week after a school outing in sweltering weather.
In South Korea, at least 10 people have died from heat-related illnesses, including a four-year-old girl left inside a minibus for nearly seven hours. The daytime highs hovered around 33 to 37 deg C across the country.
High electricity demands also caused blackouts in several regions over the weekend, prompting the authorities to restart two suspended nuclear plants.
The South Korean government is reviewing whether to revise the disaster law to include intensive heat as a disaster.
"We have decided great heat should be included in the list of natural disasters. The ministry will express support to the National Assembly when it reviews revision of the related laws," a Ministry of the Interior and Safety official said.
The Act on the Management of Disasters and Safety currently defines "natural disasters" as situations caused by weather conditions such as typhoons, floods, droughts, earthquakes and meteorites.
The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) said the heatwave is expected to persist until the end of the month. "The boiling hot weather will continue to grip the country for a while," a KMA official said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK