World Bulletin / News Desk
An "unprecedented" heatwave in Japan has killed at least 65 people in one week, government officials said Tuesday, with the weather agency now classifying the record-breaking weather as a "natural disaster."
Both figures are "the worst-ever for any week during summer" since the agency began recording fatalities resulting from heat stroke in July 2008, an agency spokesman told AFP.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Tuesday that a total of 80 people have died from the heat since the beginning of July, and over 35,000 have been hospitalised.
Among those killed was six-year-old school boy who lost consciousness on his way back from a field trip.
"As a record heatwave continues to blanket the country, urgent measures are required to protect the lives of schoolchildren," top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters Tuesday.
The government said it would supply funds to ensure all schools are equipped with air conditioners by next summer.
Less than half of Japan's public schools have air conditioning, and the figure is only slightly higher at public kindergartens.
Suga said the government would also consider extending this year's summer school holidays as the heatwave drags on.
On Monday, the city of Kumagaya in Saitama outside Tokyo set a new national heat record, with temperatures hitting 41.1 Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit).
And temperatures over 40 degrees were registered for the first time in Tokyo's metro area, where the government is promoting Uchimizu, a tradition where water is sprinkled onto the ground, as part of a summer heat awareness campaign.
It was marginally cooler on Tuesday -- 36 degrees in Tokyo according to the national weather agency -- but temperatures remained well above normal in most of the country, and little relief is forecast.
"We are observing unprecedented levels of heat in some areas," weather agency official Motoaki Takekawa said late Monday.
The heatwave "is fatal, and we recognise it as a natural disaster," he told reporters.
The agency warned that much of the country will continue baking in temperatures of 35 degrees or higher until early August.
Officials have urged people to use air conditioning, drink sufficient water and rest often.
Last Mod: 24 Temmuz 2018, 10:54