Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Northeast Asia suffers under severe heat wave

Hong Kong (CNN) -- For countries in Northeast Asia, this summer is becoming too hot to bear.

Dead fish lie in a dried-up pond in Jiujiang, China, on Friday, August 9.

A Japanese city has experienced the highest temperature ever recorded in the country.

The South Korean government is clamping down on the use of air-conditioning in an attempt to stave off power shortages.

And Shanghai has been sweltering under a record-setting run of baking hot days.

The searing temperatures have brought a spike in heat-related deaths, as well as harming crops and livestock.

A new record

In Japan, of the 52 deaths from heatstroke nationwide between late May and early August, nearly one third of them occurred last week, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.

On Monday, the temperature reached 41 Celsius in Shimanto in southern Japan, setting a new national record, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency.

The agency issued a heat alert covering 37 of Japan's 47 prefectures on Tuesday, warning that the high temperatures are expected to continue for about a week in western, central and southern parts of the country.

Looming energy crisis

The hot weather has come at a bad time for South Korea, putting a severe strain on the country's struggling power grid. The energy supply was already suffering from technical problems, including the shutdown of some nuclear reactors.

Officials have warned of an imminent energy crisis.

To try to prevent shortages, authorities on Monday ordered sweltering workers in government offices to turn off the air-conditioning and avoid using elevators.

The order came two days after the city of Gimhae clocked a temperature of 39.2 Celsius, the highest in South Korea in more than a decade.

Weeks of heat

Parts of China, meanwhile, have been dealing with unusually high temperatures for weeks.

After sweating through its hottest July in at least 140 years, Shanghai last week experienced four consecutive days during which the thermometer went above 40 degrees Celsius, state media reported. That's the first time the sprawling city of 23 million inhabitants has had a run of temperatures that high, according to the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau.

China's National Meteorological Center on Tuesday issued its second-highest heat alert for central and southern parts of the country -- the 20th day in a row that it's issued an alert of that level, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

But the agency also offered some hope of a reprieve for heat-weary citizens.

It predicted that "the intensity of the heat and the regions it affects will gradually dwindle over the next three days," Xinhua reported.

CNN's Junko Ogura and journalist Saori Ibuki in Tokyo; and journalist Soo Bin Park in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report. More