Heatwave in Southeast Asia: prayers for rain, water shortages, forest fires… Several countries are suffering from the heat

In recent weeks, extreme heat has enveloped Asia, from India to the Philippines, causing deaths from sunstroke and school closures

Heatwave in Southeast Asia: prayers for rain, water shortages, forest fires… Several countries are suffering from the heat

In recent weeks, extreme heat has enveloped Asia, from India to the Philippines, causing deaths from sunstroke and school closures. Tens of millions of people are affected by the heatwave, authorities in several countries are calling on people to stay at home.

Caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, climate change increases the intensity, duration and frequency of heatwaves. Asia, which is warming faster than the global average, is the region on the planet most affected by weather, climate and water-related disasters, with many countries in the region experiencing their 2023 hottest year on record, noted the World Meteorological Organization.

The country has experienced three severe heat waves this month, according to data released Friday (May 3) by the National Center for Hydrometeorological Forecasting, with the mercury reaching 44 degrees in two cities earlier this week. This figure is just below Vietnam's highest temperature ever recorded, 44.2 degrees on May 7, 2023.

A total of 102 weather stations recorded records in April, with northern and central Vietnam worst hit by the heatwave, with temperatures averaging 2 to 4 degrees higher than the same period in 2023. Seven stations recorded temperatures exceeding 43 degrees on Tuesday.

The most dramatic sign of the extreme weather hitting Vietnam appeared in the southern province of Dong Nai, where hundreds of thousands of fish died in a reservoir. This massive mortality was attributed to the lack of water caused by the heatwave and poor management. Vietnam’s meteorological agency predicts more heatwaves in May, with temperatures 1.5 to 2.5 degrees higher than in previous years.

Catholic bishops in the Philippines have called on their faithful to pray for the return of rain and lower temperatures amid the extreme heat wave gripping the country. In this predominantly Catholic country, bishops issued a set of special prayers for parishioners during masses on Saturday, May 4.

“We humbly ask you to relieve us from the extreme heat which is overwhelming your people at this time, disrupting their activities and threatening their lives and livelihoods,” reads a prayer. Send us rain to replenish our depleting water sources, to irrigate our fields, to avoid water and electricity shortages, and to provide us with water for our daily needs. »

Rising mercury has forced the government to close tens of thousands of schools since Monday, while rising demand for electricity has left the country's energy reserves drained. A record 38.8 degrees was recorded in the capital Manila on April 27, prompting the closure of more than 47,000 schools for two days.

Burma: more than 48 degrees, concerns for displaced people

In eastern Burma, hit by a heatwave, a water shortage is overwhelming the population of displaced persons camps, already weakened by the civil conflict. In the country, the mercury exceeded 48 degrees this week in the center of the country.

In Kayah State, the surrounding mountains and jungle are no longer enough to contain the heat, and high temperatures are hitting IDP camps hard. The water supply difficulties add to the fear of air strikes from the junta, and other restrictions of a daily life disrupted by the conflict which has brought Burma to its knees.

On Thursday, a huge forest fire on the outskirts of Kathmandu mobilized firefighters and the local population to put it out, while Nepalese authorities are alarmed by the increase in forest fires to “an unimaginable proportion”. Firefighters worked through the night from Wednesday to Thursday to battle the blaze that ravaged a forested area in Lalitpur, on the southern outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley.

More than 4,500 wildfires have been reported nationwide this year, nearly double the number in 2023, according to government data. The year that recorded a historic record for the number of forest fires was 2021.

A Thai village used a unique method to cause rain: parading a Japanese cartoon cat. In the central province of Nakhon Sawan, which has not seen rain for months, villagers in the Phayuha Khiri district hoisted the cat Doraemon, from a Japanese manga, to overcome the drought.

Dressed in sequins and carrying a garlanded cage containing the stuffed toy, residents paraded through the village while spectators sprinkled it with water. This was a new version of an old dry season ritual known as “Hae Nang Meaw” (literally “a cat’s parade”). Due to felines' well-known aversion to water, some associate these animals with rain and are convinced that their furious meows, after getting soaked, are meant to cause precipitation.

For several days, oppressive heat has raged in Calcutta, capital of the state of West Bengal, with a record temperature of 43 degrees, the hottest April day since 1954, according to the city's meteorological office. The heat wave in India has significantly reduced activity in a large part of the city.

Agence France-Presse reports that animals also suffer greatly from the heat. A veterinary clinic is overwhelmed with pet owners suffering from bleeding noses, severe rashes and other symptoms related to the scorching heat. “We receive several cases of sunstroke per day. This is unprecedented,” says veterinarian Partha Das.

The situation is worrying for the 70,000 stray dogs, according to municipal authorities' estimates, who live on the city's streets, only fed and cared for by neighborhood residents. Many of them take refuge under parked cars. A few lucky people are sprayed with cool water by compassionate local residents. Dozens of dogs and cats rushed to veterinary clinics have died.