Eintime Conversion for education and research 10-20-2007 @ 07:24:19
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Japan swelters in record heat wave

By Hiroko Tabuchi, Associated Press

TOKYO — Japan sizzled through its hottest day on record Thursday, as a heat wave reportedly claimed at least 13 lives across the country and spurred fears of an electricity shortage.

The mercury hit 105.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the western city of Tajimi and also the central city of Kumagaya on Thursday afternoon, breaking a previous national record of set in 1933, according to the Meteorological Agency.

Temperatures also soared to new highs in parts of Tokyo and across the country, spurring vacationers to take cover indoors at the height of the "bon" summer holidays.

The Hachioji region of Tokyo hit 101.6 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the previous record of for August.

The average high temperature in central Tokyo for the month of August is 87.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Many parts of Japan have been hit by the heat wave since last week.

Ten people died across Japan on Thursday from heatstroke, including eight elderly people, public broadcaster NHK said. A 13-year-old boy who collapsed in Tokyo after basketball practice two days ago also died Thursday, NHK said, adding that 886 people were taken to hospitals across the nation from heatstroke. Three others died from heatstroke Wednesday, Kyodo News agency said.

Tokyo Electrical Power Co. warned of a power shortage as people turned up their air conditioners. The company has been firing up old thermal power stations and buying electricity from rivals after a strong earthquake ravaged its largest nuclear power reactor, reducing its electricity output by more than 10%.

Elsewhere, rail tracks were bent out of shape in the sun, and authorities struggled to deal with fire alarms set off erroneously by rising temperatures, according to news reports.

The heat also got the best of sumo wrestler Takamisakari, who smashed into his practice room window as he nearly collapsed following practice on Thursday, reports said.

But scorching temperatures were expected to boost sales of beer and other beverages, as well as electric appliances like air conditioners and fans, as consumers scrambled to keep cool.

The heat wave could lift drink sales as much as $491.6 million and electric products by US$1.2 billion, according to a Daiichi-Life Research Institute study quoted in the Fuji Sankei Business newspaper.

"I'm sure this weather is great for beer-lovers, though I don't drink myself," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is known to prefer popsicles to alcohol, told reporters late Thursday.

(Original Len: 2904 Condensed Len: 2989)

10-20-2007 @ 07:24:19