Extreme heat scorches Southeast Asia, bringing school closures and warnings


Global temperatures hit record highs last year and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said Asia was warming at a particularly rapid pace, with the impact of heatwaves in the region becoming more severe.

The WMO’s State of the Climate in Asia 2023 report found Asia was warming faster than the global average, with temperatures last year nearly 2 degrees Celsius above the 1961 to 1990 average.

“Many countries in the region experienced their hottest year on record in 2023, along with a barrage of extreme conditions, from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms,” said WMO chief Celeste Saulo, who described the report as “sobering”.

WMO Deputy Secretary-General Ko Barrett said: “Extreme heat is increasingly becoming the big silent killer.”

The report highlighted the accelerating rate of key climate change indicators such as surface temperature, glacier retreat and sea level rise, saying they would have serious repercussions for societies, economies and ecosystems in the region.

But “heat-related mortality is widely under-reported and so the true scale of premature deaths and economic costs … is not accurately reflected in the statistics,” Barrett said Wednesday.

In Bangladesh, thousands gathered in Dhaka to pray for rain as an extreme heatwave forced authorities to shut schools around the country.

Bangladesh’s weather bureau said average maximum temperatures in the capital over the past week have been 4 to 5 degrees Celsius higher than the 30-year average for the same period.

“Praying for rains is a tradition of our prophet. We repented for our sins and prayed for his blessings for rains,” said Muhammad Abu Yusuf, an Islamic cleric who led a morning prayer service for 1,000 people in central Dhaka.

“Life has become unbearable due to lack of rains,” he told AFP. “Poor people are suffering immensely.”

Similar prayer services were held in other parts of Bangladesh, police said.

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