Saturday, August 18, 2007

13 dead in Japan’s hottest day on record

Gulf Times, via Agence France-Presse: The temperature hit an all-time high in Japan yesterday with the extreme summer heat bending train rails and killing at least 13 people this week, officials said.

The mercury shot up to a record 40.9 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) yesterday afternoon in central Gifu prefecture and Saitama prefecture near Tokyo, the weather agency said.

The reading eclipsed the previous highest temperature recorded in Japan of 40.8 degrees set in northern Yamagata prefecture in 1933.

…The heat wave comes amid growing concern about global warming. A UN report in April warned that climate change threatened nearly a third of the world’s species with extinction. Meteorologists said the heat wave was due to high air pressure caused by hot temperatures on the surface of the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

On Wednesday, a commuter train running north of Tokyo had to stop for three hours as heat bent the rails, which had to be cooled down with water.

“The rails are made of steel and naturally heat can bloat them. But it is unprecedented to have this kind of trouble,” a spokesman for Tobu Railway said.

Hundreds of people have also been sent to hospitals due to heat-related illnesses. Thirteen people have been confirmed dead. “Many of the victims are elderly people. They are hard hit by this heat wave as they are not so physically strong to begin with,” said Toshihiko Yamasaki, a disaster prevention official in Saitama prefecture, where five deaths have been reported…

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