Record temperatures, heatstroke cases engulf Southeast Asia

SOUTHEAST ASIA continues to grapple with blistering heat amid reports of record temperatures and cases of heatstroke that further add to signs of extreme weather changes.

Singapore posted its highest temperature in 40 years at 37C (98.6F) on Saturday and the warm and dry conditions will continue, the National Environment Agency said in a Facebook post. The temperature also surpassed the previous record for May of 36.7C, recorded last year, the agency said.

In Malaysia, as many as 14 heatstroke cases were reported by the Health Ministry as of Friday, and the government expects the number of victims to increase given the hot weather, which will likely run through August, Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni told reporters Saturday according to state media Bernama.

“The situation is still under control and can be accommodated in health facilities,” Mr. Lukanisman said. “Ministry facilities and hospitals are prepared to receive heatstroke victims and heat cramp victims.” The country recently reported the death of a child from heatstroke, which prompted the Health Ministry to issue a public advisory.

With scientists warning 2023 will likely be another year marked by dangerously high temperatures, signs of strain are emerging across Asia as the heat wave that started in April continues to blast through the region, following a pattern of increasing extreme weather caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Vietnam reported its highest ever temperature of 44.2C early this month and the Philippines cut classroom hours after the heat index reached the “danger” zone.

Expectations of shrinking palm oil supplies due to the scorching heat keep investors on edge as nearly all of the world’s oil palm is grown in Southeast Asia. Thailand’s Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking also warned that the threat of an El Niño-induced drought later this year could drive up food prices.

With climate change and a looming shift in patterns toward El Niño conditions, heat waves and large storms could become more frequent or intense. Bangladesh and Myanmar are evacuating hundreds of thousands of people as Cyclone Mocha is set to make landfall Sunday, potentially causing widespread destruction to one of the most vulnerable areas in the region. — Bloomberg