Scorching weather continues across South and Southeast Asia (2024)



Scorching weather continues across South and Southeast Asia (1)

Millions of people across South and Southeast Asia continue to swelter through exceptionally hot weather on Friday (Apr 26).

The extreme heat has forced schools across Bangladesh and the Philippines to suspend in-person classes this week and prompted governments to issue warnings about the high temperatures.

Thailand on Thursday issued fresh warnings after the heat index in Bangkok crossed 52 degrees Celsius. The Thai government said that heatstroke had alreadykilled at least 30 people this year.

The heat index measures what a temperature feels like, taking into account humidity.

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

The United Nations said this week that Asia was the region most affected by climate and weather hazards in 2023, with floods and storms the chief causes of casualties and economic losses.

In the Philippines,a centuries-old settlement submerged by the construction of a dam north of the country in the 1970s has reappeared as water levels drop due to a drought affecting swathes of the country.

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


The ruins in the middle of Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija province are a tourist draw, even as the region swelters in extreme heat.

Parts of a church, municipal hall marker and tombstones began to resurface in March after several months of "almost no rain", said Marlon Paladin, a supervising engineer for the National Irrigation Administration.

Scorching weather continues across South and Southeast Asia (2)
Scorching weather continues across South and Southeast Asia (3)

It is the sixth time the nearly 300-year-old settlement has resurfaced since the reservoir was created to provide irrigation water for local farmers and generate hydro-power.

"This is the longest time (it was visible) based on my experience," Paladin told AFP.

The reservoir's water level has fallen nearly 50m from its normal high level of 221m, figures from the state weather forecaster show.

About half of the Philippines' provinces, including Nueva Ecija, are officially in drought.

The receding water level forced two hydropower plants near the dam to stop operating earlier this month, ahead of the normal shutdown on May 1.

It also deprived many rice farmers of much-needed irrigation water, forcing some to switch to growing vegetables, which require less water.

Dela Cruz said she prays for rain even though it means her old home will again disappear from view. "Our farmers badly need water for their fields," she added.

The actual air temperature in Nueva Ecija has reached around 37 degrees Celsius most days this week, with the heat index hovering above the "danger" level of 42 degrees Celsius.


First COVID-19, now heat: Online schooling returns to the Philippines


Temperatures across Bangladesh have reached more than 42 degrees Celsius in the past week.

The heat prompted thousands of Bangladeshis to gather in city mosques and rural fields, praying for relief from the scorching heat that forecasters expect to continue through the weekend.

Classes are cancelled across the country due to searing heat, but high school student Mohua Akter Nur found the soaring temperatures left her in no state for homework.

Millions of pupils were told to stay home this week as the South Asian nation swelters through one of its worst heatwaves on record, with temperatures 4 to 5 degrees Celsius above the long-term average.

Few schools in the capital Dhaka have air conditioning, and trying to conduct classes would have been futile.

Scorching weather continues across South and Southeast Asia (5)

But the government's decision to shutter schools was no relief to 13-year-old Nur. Her cramped one-room home in the megacity, shared with her younger brother and parents, feels almost as suffocating as the streets outside.

"The heat is intolerable. Our school is shut, but I can't study at home. The electric fan does not cool us," she told AFP. "When the power went out for an hour or two, it felt terrible."

"Last year was hot, but this year is too hot - more than ever. Just unbearable," said Nur's mother Rusmana Islam. "In villages, you can step out and cool yourself under the shade of trees.

"There is some breeze coming from the farmland. But here in Dhaka, all you can do is sit at home."

Bangladesh authorities expect to reopen schools from Apr 28, before temperatures are expected to recede.

Bangladesh and its 171 million people are already at the forefront of the global climate crisis, regularly battered by powerful cyclones and floods of increasing frequency and severity.

The latest bout of extreme weather has spurred an outbreak of diarrhoea in the country's south, due to higher temperatures and the resulting increased salinity of local water sources.

Around the tenement building where Nur's family lives, alongside dozens of other low-income families, adults tried to block out the worst of the heat by dozing fitfully in their homes through the afternoon.

"The heat is so intense that it's tough to be out driving in these conditions," said 40-year-old Mohammad Yusuf, who like Nur's father and many of their neighbours, makes ends meet as a driver.

"You can get some respite when the air conditioner is on," he said. "But when you are outside, it feels like you are burning".


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Despite a scorching heatwave, India's six-week election resumed on Friday with millions of people lining up outside polling stations in parts of the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely expected to win a third term in the election, which concludes in early June.

But turnout in the first round of voting last week dropped nearly four points to 66 per cent from the last election in 2019, with speculation in Indian media outlets that higher-than-average temperatures were to blame.

Modi took to social media shortly before polls reopened to urge those voting to turn out in "record numbers" despite the heat.

"A high voter turnout strengthens our democracy," he wrote on social media platform X. "Your vote is your voice!"

Scorching weather continues across South and Southeast Asia (8)

The second round of the poll - conducted in phases to ease the immense logistical burden of staging an election in the world's most populous country - includes districts that have this week seen temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.

India's weather bureau said Thursday that severe heatwave conditions would continue in several states through the weekend.

That includes parts of the eastern state of Bihar, where five districts are voting Friday and where temperatures more than 5.1 degrees Celsius above the seasonal average were recorded this week.

Karnataka state in the south and parts of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state and heartland of the Hindu faith, are also scheduled to vote while facing heatwave conditions.

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

The Hindu newspaper suggested the decision could have been taken out of concerns that the intense heat "might have resulted in a dip in voter turnout".

In a Monday statement, the commission said it had "no major concern" about the impact of hot temperatures on Friday's vote.

But it added that it had been closely monitoring weather reports and would ensure "the comfort and well-being of voters along with polling personnel".

The heat disrupted campaigning in India on Wednesday when Roads Minister Nitin Gadkari fainted at a rally for Modi in Maharashtra state.

More than 968 million people are eligible to take part in India's election, with the final round of voting on Jun 1 and results expected three days later.

Source: Agencies/rj

Related Topics

Philippines drought rice Climate change Bangladesh India


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