A 23-year-old man has died from the heatwave in Malaysia while 13 others have reported suffering from heat exhaustion or heatstroke, the country's health minister said on Friday (March 18).
"Yesterday, a male trainee policeman at the Segamat Police Training Centre (Pulapol) became the first victim to die of heatstroke," Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam was quoted by state news agency Bernama as saying at a press conference.
Dr Subramaniam said the victim, Mr Azizan Ayob, had collapsed during training held at an indoor field track. Malaysian media reports earlier said Mr Azizan was rushed to the Segamat Hospital, where he later died.
Dr Subramaniam said according to hospital's report, the victim succumbed as a result of dehydration which caused the blood to become over concentrated and tissues to be deprived of oxygen. He added that seven of the other 13 cases of heat exhaustion and heatstroke were being treated at hospitals across the country, Bernama reported.
The minister advised the public to drink an adequate amount of water, limit strenuous outdoor activities, wear light clothing and stay in places with sufficient ventilation.
He had also instructed government agencies such as the police, the military and the Sports and Youth Ministry to reduce activities including marathons and intense physical exercises during the extreme hot weather.
Malaysia has been wilting under soaring temperatures and a dry spell due to the El Nino phenomenon.
Temperatures have reached 38.5 deg C in the six worst-hit areas in the north - Chuping, Perlis; Alor Setar, Kedah; Ipoh and Lubuk Merbau, Perak; and Batu Embun and Temerloh, Pahang.
Schools may be closed if the extreme heat continues, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said this week as weather officials warned that temperatures are not expected to moderate until next month.
In the case of Mr Azizan, a pre-existing condition of epilepsy might have contributed to his death.
Assistant Superintendent Abu Bakar Ngah, the police training coordinator at Pulapol, said Mr Azizan's father told him that his son was epileptic, and had a fever for several days before reporting for duty at the centre.
It is not clear whether the training centre was told of Mr Azizan's health condition before or after he suffered heatstroke.
A Segamat Hospital spokesman told Malay Mail although heatstroke was the main cause of death, Mr Azizan's epilepsy might have been a contributing factor.
The training programme the young man was being put through had a total of 467 trainees and had begun on March 13.
Mr Azizan was buried in his hometown of Malacca on Thursday afternoon.
His mother, 54-year-old Norhayati Shamsudin, said her son was excited at the prospect of joining the police force.
"He could not sleep at all the night before joining the police basic training programme. He had applied twice before being confirmed last January, following in his father's footsteps," she said.
Following the incident, Segamat hospital has contacted Pulapol authorities to advise them on the precautions to be taken during the current hot weather.