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Warnings issued as Asia swelters in extreme heatwave

South and Southeast Asia braced for more extreme heat as authorities across the region issued health warnings and residents fled to parks and air-conditioned shopping centres for relief.

A wave of exceptionally hot weather has blasted the region over the past week, sending the mercury as high as 45C and forcing thousands of schools to tell students to stay home.

The Philippines announced the suspension of in-person classes at all public schools for two days after a record-shattering day of heat in the capital Manila.

Many schools in the Philippines have no air-conditioning, leaving students to swelter in crowded, poorly ventilated classrooms.

The hot weather has persisted, with many flocking to air-conditioned shopping centres and swimming pools for relief.

Students refill their water bottles at a school in Dhaka, Bangladesh, today
Students refill their water bottles at a school in Dhaka, Bangladesh

In Thailand, where at least 30 people have died of heatstroke so far this year, the meteorological department warned of “severe conditions” after temperatures in a northern province exceeded 44.1C yesterday.

And in Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh, forecasters warned that temperatures could exceed 40C in the coming days as people endured searing heat and stifling humidity.

“I dare not go out in the daytime. I am worried we would get heatstroke,” said a 39-year-old cashier in Myanmar’s Yangon who gave her name as San Yin.

She said she has been going to a park with her husband and four-year-old son at night to escape the heat of their fourth-floor apartment.

“This is the only spot we can stay to avoid the heat in our neighbourhood,” she said.

Global temperatures hit record highs last year, and the United Nations weather and climate agency said on Tuesday that Asia was warming at a particularly rapid pace.

Extensive scientific research has found climate change is causing heat waves to become longer, more frequent and more intense.

Myanmar has recorded temperatures that are 3-4C higher than the April average, its weather monitor said last week.

On Sunday, the national forecaster predicted temperatures in the central city of Mandalay could rise to 43C.

The ministry of water and meteorology in Cambodia warned that temperatures could also hit 43C in some parts of the country in the week ahead, while the health ministry advised people to monitor their health “during hot weather related to climate change”.

Temperatures in Vietnam were also forecast to remain high during a five-day national holiday, with forecasts as high as 41C in the north.

Forecasters there said it would remain intensely hot until the end of April, with cooler conditions expected in May.

India’s weather department said yesterday that severe heatwave conditions would continue through the weekend in several states, with temperatures soaring to 44C in some locations.

The world’s biggest democracy is in the middle of a six-week general election that saw millions of voters queue up in searing temperatures on Friday.

India’s election commission said it had formed a task force to review the impact of heatwaves and humidity before each round of voting.

And in Bangladesh, millions of students returned to schools that had been closed due to extreme temperatures, even though its weather bureau said the heatwave would continue for at least the next three days.

March, April and May are typically the hottest and driest months of the year in the region but this year’s conditions have been exacerbated by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

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