August 2015 – JAPAN – The toll from Japan’s ongoing heat wave accelerated last week, boosting the year’s tally to 55 heat-related deaths and sending more than 11,000 to the hospital according to new government figures released Tuesday. According to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency, 25 people died from heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses nationwide during the week of July 27 through Aug. 2. It was by far the deadliest week so far this year in Japan, nearly equaling the death toll of 30 in the preceding three months combined.
The number of people sent to hospitals for heat-related illnesses also skyrocketed, reaching 11,637 when excluding the 25 deaths. This was more than double the figure for the same period in 2014. Since April 27, more than 35,000 people have been hospitalized due to hot weather in Japan. Of those, 855 have required at least three weeks of hospitalization due to the severity of their illness. The heat has spared no region of the country. Heat-related deaths have been reported in 29 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, and each of the 47 prefectures has reported at least 100 heat-related illnesses.
The greatest concentration, however, has been in the nation’s urbanized areas – in part due to weather and in part simply due to larger populations. The Greater Tokyo area accounts for 19 of the 55 heat deaths this year, with Saitama prefecture suffering the highest death toll (nine) of any single prefecture. Tokyo proper leads the casualty count with 3,037 people affected by the heat, including two deaths. Japan’s aging population is particularly vulnerable to the heat. Just over 49 percent of this year’s illnesses have involved people at least 65 years old. Children account for about 15 percent of the total, with adults ages 18 to 65 constituting the rest of the total. The heat has expanded in recent days. According to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency, 223 of the nation’s 928 temperature observation sites recorded a high of at least 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday (Aug. 1), and more than two-thirds of the observation network hit at least 30 C (86 F).
Aided by abundant sunshine and a dearth of thunderstorm activity, more than 81 percent of JMA’s observation network hit the 30 C mark Tuesday, the highest figure since Aug. 22, 2012. Arguably the epicenter of the heat has been in the northern suburbs of Tokyo, which are among the hottest regions of the country owing to their low elevation, long distance from the coast and southerly latitude – a rare combination in Japan. The city of Tatebayashi in Gunma prefecture recorded its 12th consecutive day of temperatures 35 C or higher on Tuesday; in all that city has reached the 35 C threshold on 21 days this year. –Weather