People Are Dying Because of a Heat Wave in Japan

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Photo: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images

Climate change sure is taking a toll on Japan. The island nation is in the middle of a heat wave so severe, it has taken the lives of at least 15 people in the last week. More than 8,000 others have had to visit the ER, almost half of them over age 65.

The hottest day so far was Saturday, when nearly 2,000 people were rushed to the hospital as temperatures in many cities topped 95 degrees Fahrenheit. And unfortunately, the heat shows no signs of abating. A Weather.com forecast for Otsuki, Japan — a city whose weekend temperatures reached 102 degrees Fahrenheit — shows highs in the 90s for most of this week. Tokyo is projected to hover in the upper 80s, but expected thunderstorms are sure to ramp up the humidity in both cities. 

Japan is hit particularly hard by extreme temperatures because of its aging population. About 25 percent of Japanese citizens are age 65 or older, compared to just 14 percent in the United States. This isn't the first time a heat wave took a heavy human toll on Japan, either: Just last year, record high temperatures killed 17 people there, and hospitalized almost 10,000 others.

And, lest you think there's simply a heat spot somewhere over the Pacific, ThinkProgress's Katie Valentine writes that record highs are also hitting closer to home:

And Japan isn’t the only region to experience record-breaking heat last week. On Thursday, Phoenix, Arizona set a record of 116°F. In other parts of the state, temperatures were even higher — Yuma reached 117 °F, tying a record high for the date, and Tacna reached 120°.

We've got just one word: Yikes!