Wars can exacerbate severe weather issues. In Iraq, and other war torn areas, victims of the severe heat wave gripping the region have few options as to where to go. Electricity and water are constantly cut, which makes escaping the heat difficult. One cannot simply enjoy air conditioning at home or work. Some take refuge in air conditioned shopping malls and others swim in whatever waterways are available, like irrigation channels and rivers, and they desperately need that refuge with temperatures feeling as high as 165ºF (73.8ºC). That is the internal temperature of a well-done steak! These options can be dangerous, leaving people to face the choice between heat stroke and drowning in the absolute worst case scenarios. Rivers, even calm rivers can turn dangerous with little or no notice. Add to that, casual river goers could face white water and a recipe for disaster clearly emerges. Calm looking rivers can and do claim lives. Sometimes they have man-made structures called weirs, which can sometimes act like natural strainers. A strainer is what it sounds like. They occur when log jams in rivers occasionally cause situations where water can get through, but not much else can, such as unwary swimmers or boaters. Even tame rivers can be dangerous as conditions can change with very little warning.
In Lebanon, there is a problem with garbage collection, along with the aforementioned heat wave. Garbage is frequently full of food, which in the right conditions are highly conducive to bacterial growth, and these are the right conditions. Many of these bacteria cause spoilage or food poisoning. If there are tears in any of those bags, harmful bacteria such as salmonella could transfer to clothing or skin. Then if these people swim in untreated water, namely anywhere but a pool, people with weakened immune systems could contract food-borne illnesses. While we are not aware of any deaths related to this heat wave or denizens’ methods of keeping cool, we will watch this situation closely. We do know that the heat wave has killed tens of thousands of chickens, which will certainly have an impact on food prices, and have an obvious adverse effect on the farmers whose chickens died. The death toll could greatly exceed 1,200 people, which is the number dead after the Pakistan heat wave earlier this year.
Sadly, we are aware of 55 people who have died after an eight day heat wave in Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, and they have regular access to water and electricity. That death toll may expand to more than 130 victims. More shockingly, nearly 12,000 people were hospitalized for heat illnesses. Every prefecture was affected; meaning the entirety of Japan was 5ºF (2.8ºC) above average for eight days. Tokyoites fared the worst with 19 confirmed heat related deaths. Japan has an aging population, with many of their residents over 65. Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to heat waves because they have difficulty recognizing the signs of dehydration.
Unfortunately, the tragic events we reported on are in no way a full reflection of what has been going on in the world. If you would like to see all of our headlines from the past week, please click here.