Rising Heat Wave Grips Southeast Asia, Forcing School Closures, Health Warnings

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Rising Heat Wave Grips Southeast Asia, Forcing School Closures, Health Warnings
A Lao resident drinking water under the heat (photo: RDK Group)

Additional text from the Associated Press 

Southeast Asia is no stranger to scorching temperatures, especially during the peak months of March and April. However, this year, the sweltering weather may have shattered records, forcing several countries in the region to take drastic measures, including school closures and health advisories, to mitigate the risks posed by the intense heat.

In Laos, temperatures have soared week after week, with the highest temperatures jumping as high as 43.2 degrees Celsius on 26 April. This constant hot weather resulted in the country’s Ministry of Education and Sports advising schools in Vientiane Capital to consider canceling classes should the heat rise to a dangerous level.

Despite the ongoing heat, the situation may have taken a turn for the better as the temperature in Laos has subsided slightly thanks to rain and thunderstorms in some areas of the country. The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology of Laos predicted that the whole country will experience an all-week rain this week, with the highest temperatures at about 36-38 degrees Celsius. 

School closure measures are not limited to Laos. The Philippines have also been temporarily shutting schools down due to the intolerable heat, according to the Guardian. 

It escalated to the point where more than thousands of schools in the Philippines began canceling in-person classes in April. The National Weather Bureau of the Philippines also issued a warning of a scorching heat index of up to 51 degrees Celsius in at least nine areas across the country, which are classified as “danger”, indicating temperatures ranging from 42-51 degrees Celsius.

But the heatwave’s impact extends beyond Laos and the Philippines. Meteorologists in Cambodia say the country is facing its hottest temperatures in 170 years, reaching as high as 43 degrees Celsius.

In Myanmar, weather experts said some parts of the country experienced record-high temperatures in the past week. Several towns were included on lists of the hottest spots worldwide in April, in at least one case surpassing 48.2 degrees Celsius

Parts of eastern India experienced their hottest April on record as a heat wave scorched the region amid a general election.

The recorded highs reflect only air temperature, the historical measure for hot and cold weather. They don’t factor in the debilitating effects of humidity, which can make it feel even hotter.

Thailand, on the other hand, might have suffered the most damage from the ongoing unbearable heat as the hot weather caused mass destruction of rice crops and eggs to shrink. At least 30 people have also lost their lives to heat stroke since the beginning of the year. In Bangkok alone, the temperature has touched 40 degrees Celsius while the heat index has risen to around 50 degree Celsius.

The growing heat has captured the attention of international organizations, including the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) who warned that the scorching weather has put millions of children’ lives in danger while encouraging caregivers to be extra cautious. 

A UNICEF statement said that in the Asia-Pacific region, “around 243 million children are exposed to hotter and longer heatwaves, putting them at risk of a multitude of heat-related illnesses, and even death.”

As countries in Southeast Asia face record-breaking heat, their governments are advising residents to stay indoors and stay hydrated. This extreme heat is part of a trend, with the Earth likely experiencing its 11th consecutive hottest month and expected to have one of its warmest years. The El Niño climate pattern, combined with ongoing human-caused climate change, has intensified these high temperatures.