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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Millions suffer as record-breaking heat wave hits US, Europe and Asia

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As the climate crisis worsens, millions of people across the globe are facing extreme heat conditions that pose serious threats to their health, livelihoods and environment. From the US to Europe and Asia, record-breaking temperatures have been recorded in many regions, sparking wildfires, power outages and heat-related illnesses.

In the US, a heat dome has expanded over the western states, pushing temperatures close to 130 degrees in some areas. Around 100 million people are under heat alerts, with California experiencing its first extreme heat wave of the year. The heat has been so intense that forecasters suggested residents of Las Vegas avoid the outdoors between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., with the city forecast to challenge its all-time high temperature of 117 degrees on Sunday.

The heat wave has also triggered a series of blazes in southern California south-east of Los Angeles, forcing evacuations and firefighting efforts. In Texas, Florida and Arizona, where Phoenix is in the middle of a likely record-breaking streak of consecutive 110-degree days, the heat wave has been ongoing for weeks.

Doctors have warned that the heat is deadly and can cause heat stroke and heat exhaustion in as little as 20 to 30 minutes for people doing anything strenuous outdoors. The elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions are especially vulnerable. In one case, a man’s skin started peeling and authorities described his brain as ‘fried’.

Meanwhile, Southern Europe is bracing for a second heat storm in a week, as a new anticyclone that pushed into the region from north Africa on Sunday could lift temperatures above the record 48.8C (120F) seen in Sicily in August 2021. Italy, Greece and Spain, along with Morocco and other Mediterranean countries, have been told temperature records could be broken on Tuesday.

In Italy, temperatures in Rome are poised to climb to 42C or 43C on Tuesday, while other cities like Florence and Naples could also see highs above 40C. Nighttime temperatures remain above 20C, making it a struggle for people to sleep. Authorities have issued red alerts for several regions and urged people to stay hydrated and avoid direct sun exposure.

The extreme heat has also increased the risk of wildfires, especially in dry areas. On the Canary island of La Palma, more than 4,000 people were evacuated from properties after a forest fire swept through the northwest of the island.

In contrast, Britain is set to see scattered showers and ‘average’ temperatures over the remaining summer months, according to the Met Office.

In Asia, authorities issued heatstroke alerts to tens of millions of people in 20 of Japan’s 47 prefectures as near-record high temperatures scorched large areas and torrential rain pummelled other regions. Japan’s highest temperature ever – 41.1C first recorded in Kumagaya city in 2018 – could be beaten, according to the meteorological agency.

The heat wave has also affected many other Asian countries, including India, Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Vietnam. Starting in April 2023, a record-breaking heat wave has affected these countries, setting several regional temperature records. The heat wave has caused many deaths due to heat stroke and has prompted health warnings and power outages across multiple countries.

In South Korea, heavy rains for the last four days triggered floods and landslides that killed at least 37 people and left nine missing. Nine people died in a flooded tunnel after their vehicles were trapped inside.

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