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Japan declares natural disaster as heatwave death toll reaches 80

Two weeks into Japan’s blistering heat wave, at least 80 people have died and thousands have been rushed to emergency rooms, as officials on Tuesday urged citizens to stay indoors to avoid temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) in some areas.

Japan’s weather agency has declared a heatwave sweeping the country a natural disaster, warning that “unprecedented levels of heat” were being seen in some areas.

More than 30,000 people have been admitted to hospital with heat stroke, nearly half of them elderly, local daily Kyodo News reported.

Temperatures neared 40 degrees C on Tuesday in many cities, just off Monday’s record of 41.1 C in the city of Kumagaya northwest of the capital. Temperatures in central Tokyo, where an Olympic stadium is being built, hovered near 35 degrees C.

The broiling heat has also fueled worries for the safety of athletes and spectators at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020.

 

In its bid documents to host the event, the city described the months of July and August as “having many days of mild and sunny weather” that “provide an ideal climate for athletes to perform”.

The heat is expected to ease slightly this week as a high pressure zone responsible for it moves west and east, allowing moist air to bring rain to some scorched areas, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Ambulances were dispatched around 3,125 times by Tokyo Fire Department on Sunday alone, making it its largest figure for a day since it started emergency services in 1936. As of Monday, 3,544 people were taken to hospitals by Tokyo’s ambulances due to heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

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