Southern Asia swelters under unprecedented heat

Seven countries are experiencing a sharp rise in heat-related illnesses

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Rising temperatures have prompted a series of health alerts and school closures across South and South-east Asia.

From the Philippines to Thailand, to India and Bangladesh, forecasters have warned that temperatures could exceed 40ºC in coming days.

Bangladesh and the Philippines have ordered school shutdowns while Indonesia is facing a sharp rise in dengue fever cases.

Millions of pupils in public schools across the Philippines were ordered to stay home on Monday after authorities cancelled classes because of the intense summer heat that has been worsened by humidity.

In the capital, Manila, home to more than 14 million people, the temperature soared to 38.8ºC on Saturday, surpassing a record set decades ago.

The hot weather is expected to last until mid-May and has stoked fears of water shortages, power cuts and crop damage.

Cambodia is facing its highest temperatures in 170 years, said Chan Yutha, a representative of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology. Temperatures in most parts of the country could hit 43ºC this week.

Myanmar’s meteorological department said on Monday that seven townships in the central Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing and Bago regions experienced record-high temperatures.

A number of towns in Myanmar were on a list of the hottest spots around the world last week.

In Thailand, temperatures have topped 44ºC in some northern parts while Bangkok has recorded temperatures higher than 40ºC.

The Thai meteorological department said this year’s summer is expected to be 1ºC to 2ºC hotter than last year, with rainfall expected to be lower than average.

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The meteorological service in Singapore said temperatures there could exceed last year's, the country's fourth-warmest year since records began in 1929.

Singapore's hottest day recorded was on May 13 last year, when the temperature soared to 37ºC.

Vietnamese media reported that the intense heat has driven residents of Ho Chi Minh City to seek relief in air-conditioned shopping malls.

The state power company has urged people not to overwork their air conditioning units while the national weather agency warned of the risk of forest fires as the temperatures in parts of northern and central Vietnam are set to range between 40.2ºC and 44ºC.

Malaysia's meteorological department issued a hot weather warning for 16 regions on Sunday as temperatures of between 35ºC and 40ºC were forecast for three consecutive days.

Health risks

Cases of heat-related illness have been reported across the South-east Asia region, with people admitted to hospitals due to dehydration and heat stroke.

Thailand’s Department of Disease Control said last week that at least 30 people have died from heat stroke so far this year, compared with 37 last year.

Malaysia's Health Ministry recorded a total of 45 cases of heat-related illnesses as of April 13, with two deaths from heat stroke reported.

At least 34 people have fallen ill due to the extreme heat in the Philippines so far this year, including six who died. The Department of Health said it was verifying the exact cause of the deaths.

Media in Bangladesh reported that at least 20 people died from heat stroke during a five-day period earlier this month.

The warmer temperatures in Indonesia have caused a surge in dengue fever, a mosquito-borne infection, with cases more than doubling to 35,000, from 15,000 a year earlier, the Health Ministry said.

Updated: April 30, 2024, 6:53 AM