AUTHORITIES in Thailand have urged the public to stay indoors to avoid the hot weather as the country was facing the longest heatwave in over half a century.
In the wake of the situation, animals at Bangkok’s zoo were being fed special frozen fruit pops while people are flocking to shopping malls just to soak up the air-conditioning.
Although Thailand is typically hot and sweaty in April, this year’s scorching weather has set a record for the longest heatwave in at least 65 years.
The average peak temperature each day this month has been above 40 degrees Celsius, with the mercury spiking one day to 44.3 degrees Celsius – just short of the all-time record.
The heatwave has also fueled a new record for energy consumption and prompted health warnings on everything from food-borne illness to drowning, both of which rise every April when Thailand’s hottest month coincides with school summer break.
“As of now we can say we’ve broken the record for the highest temperatures over the longest duration in 65 years – and the season isn’t over yet,” said Surapong Sarapa, head of the Thai Meteorological Department’s weather forecast division.
He added that 1960 – the year Thailand began keeping national weather records – was the last time the weather was this hot.
On this very day (April 27) in 1960, Thailand posted its hottest day ever recorded with 44.5 degrees Celsius in the northern province of Uttaradit.
Countries across Southeast Asia are also feeling the heat, which scientists say is triggered by El Niño, a warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide and tends to push global temperatures up. El Niño has also been blamed for causing the worst drought in decades across the region.
Neighboring Malaysia is predicted to endure another two months of hot as the El Niño phenomenon is expected to only dissipate in June, based on an analysis by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States.
Thailand’s Department of Disease Control has warned people to beware of food poisoning and other food-related illnesses that typically increase during hot weather when bacteria can thrive on unrefrigerated food.
“Stay indoors, try to limit activity outdoors. Wear sunglasses, wear hats with large brims. Drink more water than usual,” the disease control center said in a statement this week.
It also reminded the public of the increased risk of drowning in hot weather as children flock to Thailand’s beaches, ponds and lakes to take a swim.
“Do not let young children out of your sight for even a brief moment,” the statement said, noting that an average of 90 children die every month in Thailand from drowning, but that number increases to about 135 in April.
Additional reporting by Associated Press