FUJINOMIYA, Japan — The temperature in a Japanese city outside Tokyo hit a high of close to 106 degrees on Monday, a record for Japan as the country suffered under a weekslong heat wave that has also afflicted the Korean Peninsula.
With rescue workers still clearing out debris after deadly floods that hit western Japan this month, the heat blanketed a large part of the country, turning 2018 into a summer of environmental misery.
Already, 21 people have died from heatstroke in Japan, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, while thousands more have been taken to hospitals for heat-related reasons, with no relief in sight for the rest of the week.
About half of those hospitalized are over 65 years old. A 6-year-old boy was among the youngest to die, falling unconscious last week after an insect-hunting expedition at school in the city of Toyota in Aichi Prefecture.
The death toll is likely to rise significantly since the disaster management agency counts only deaths recorded by ambulances taking patients to a hospital. Many more people die at home or after a few days in the hospital, and a final fatality count will be based on medical death certificates.
In Korea, temperatures have not yet broken records, but heatstroke has already claimed 10 lives, including those of two young children.
In Japan, morning news shows regularly feature advice on how to stay cool and warning citizens to stay inside with air-conditioning.
The record temperature for Japan was set on Monday in Kumagaya, a city in Saitama, a suburban region outside Tokyo. The temperature was slightly higher than the previous record of 105 degrees, set in the city of Shimanto in Kochi Prefecture in 2013.
On social media, users posted comparisons with temperatures in global hot spots like Libya, Death Valley in California and Djibouti, all of which recorded lower temperatures than the record set in Kumagaya on Monday.
The heat has added to the suffering caused by deadly floods two weeks ago in southwestern Japan. The floods killed 225 people, and roughly 4,500 are still living in temporary shelters. The heat has made the task of clearing debris and shoveling mud from flood-stricken areas even more unpleasant and put people at risk of heatstroke.