Extraordinary heatwaves in Southeast Asia

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An extraordinary heatwave has been keeping the region busy for the past week. The thermometer rose to 45 degrees in some places.

People in South and Southeast Asia are bracing themselves for more extreme heat. In the Philippines, the Ministry of Education announced on Sunday that schools would remain closed until Tuesday due to extreme heat and a nationwide bus drivers’ strike. Authorities in other countries also issued health warnings. Citizens sought refuge from the smoldering temperatures in parks or shopping centers cooled by air conditioning.

As the Philippine Department of Education announced on Sunday, all schools must switch to distance learning on Monday and Tuesday, and pupils must stay home. Record temperatures of 38.8 degrees Celsius were measured in Manila’s capital on Saturday. According to the heat index, which also considers humidity, the perceived temperature in the capital was as high as 45 degrees Celsius.

In the municipality of Camiling, around 160 kilometers north of Manila, record temperatures of 40.3 degrees Celsius were measured. There is no air conditioning in many of the 47,000 state schools in the Philippines.

In addition, the drivers of the traditional jeepney minibuses have announced a three-day strike starting on Monday. Many pupils use the minibuses, which have cult status in the Philippines, to travel to school. The government wants to abolish the highly polluting buses.

In Thailand, the meteorological authority spoke of “severe conditions” after the temperature in a northern province rose to over 44 degrees on Saturday. At least 30 people have already died from heatstroke in the country this year. Forecasts in Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh also warned that it could get hotter than 40 degrees in the coming days.
“I don’t dare go out during the day. I’m afraid we’ll get heatstroke,” said 39-year-old cashier San Yin in Yangon, Myanmar. She goes to the park at night with her husband and four-year-old son. “This is the only place we can go to escape the heat in our neighborhood,” she continued.

The Indian Meteorological Department said on Saturday that the severe heatwave would continue in several states over the weekend, with some places expected to reach 44 degrees. “I have never experienced this heat before,” 37-year-old Ananth Nadiger in Bengaluru told AFP. “It’s very uncomfortable and takes away your energy.”

India is currently amid its six-week-long general election, leaving millions of voters queuing to cast their ballots in scorching heat on Friday. The Election Commission of India said it had formed a task force to review the impact of heatwaves and humidity before each round of voting.

In Bangladesh, meanwhile, millions of students returned to class after heat-related school closures. However, according to authorities, the heatwave is expected to continue for at least three days.

Temperatures worldwide reached record levels last year. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), regions in Asia are warming up much faster than elsewhere. Extensive scientific research has shown that climate change leads to longer, more frequent, and more intense heatwaves.

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