We're so used to hot weather, but how much can we take? (Image: www.freeimages.com)
Schools in Kedah and Perlis closed down for a few days in March because temperatures exceeded 39°C. On one hand: Yay, no school, kids! On the other hand, heat waves can literally kill. Strait Times reported back in March that a trainee cop in Johor died from a heat stroke. That’s when all the jokes stop.
Take a look at some of the most devastating heat waves in history:
Lasting for more than a year, the heat wave cost an expensive US$60 billion (RM241 billion). Maximum temperatures were near or above 32°C for 15 consecutive days—an abnormal phenomenon considering the nature of America’s climate. It resulted in dust storms and wildfires, killing up to 17,000 people. Before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was also the most expensive natural disaster to have happened to the country.
Considered “the biggest natural disaster in Europe on record”, the heat wave which struck various parts of Europe for over two weeks killed as many as 35,000 people. The worst hit was France, where the estimated death toll was 14,000. The effects of the heat wave included failed crops and forest fires. Some nuclear plants even had to shut down temporarily while railway transportation was disrupted temporarily.
Temperatures nearing 48°C caused water shortages in various parts of India, resulting in dehydration and heat strokes. Heat-related deaths amounted to an estimated 2,500. The heat was so extreme that it also melted some roads. Residents turned to swimming, slept on their roofs and stayed under the shade to avoid the heat.
Temperatures spiked to 49°C in Southern Pakistan last June, causing the deaths of 2,000 people. Most of them suffered from dehydration and heatstroke. Worsening the situation was the power outage that limited the methods for residents to cool themselves down.
Here are some ways you keep yourself cool during the heat wave:
Water, water, water. Make sure you fill buckets or basins just in case you run out of them. Soak your feet or use wet towels to cool your head or shoulders. If you’re out and about, consider bringing a spray bottle with you to refresh yourself.
Please remember that your pets can also suffer when it gets hot. Give them a cool bath or cool them down with a wet towel. Ensure that they have plenty of water to drink too. Signs that your pet is getting a heat stroke include rapid panting, thick saliva, hot skin, and having a dazed expression.