Japan nears record number of hospitalizations for heat-related issues

Kyodo

More than 57,000 people were taken to the hospital over the last three months due to the nationwide heat wave, government data showed Tuesday, with the figure likely to reach a record high for the year.

A total of 57,534 cases of heat exhaustion and heatstroke were reported between April 30 and July 29, including 125 who died from heat-related causes, according to data from the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

The number surged as the heat wave took hold following torrential rains that caused massive flooding and landslides in western Japan in early July.

This year’s figure has already surpassed last year’s 52,984 and is expected to outstrip the record 58,729 cases recorded in 2013. The long-running heat wave has set new temperature records, including a national high of 41.1 C on July 23 in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture.

Tokyo saw the largest number of hospitalized individuals with 4,648, followed by 4,345 in the prefecture of Osaka and 4,254 in Aichi Prefecture.

Of all of those who were taken to hospital, over 1,400 needed to be hospitalized for more than three weeks.

About 4,300 called an ambulance from an educational facility.

The elderly accounted for 48.7 percent of the total.

Over the week to Sunday, 13,721 were sent to hospitals, down from the previous week’s figure of 22,647, which marked a record high since comparable information became available in 2008.

Throughout the heat wave, property firm Leopalace21 Corp. has received an increasing number of complaints from tenants regarding some of its air conditioners, which automatically stop running after three hours.

The company intended for the automatic feature to be an eco-friendly measure, but because of rising criticism it began to modify the units’ settings or replace them entirely.

According to the firm, such air conditioners were installed in around 390,000 homes built between January 2002 and March 2015. Leopalace21 replaced or modified settings in 64,000 units.

The number of complaints from its customers jumped to 1,165 in July from 130 the previous month. Some told the company that they could suffer from heatstroke or die.

The company said it had already stopped installing the model of air conditioner and will not use it again in the future.

“I woke up every three hours because of the heat. It’s normal for me to suffer from headaches or stomachaches. I once even thought of calling an ambulance,” said a woman in her 30s who lives in one of the company’s apartments in Chiba Prefecture. “Since it’s a (company-provided) residence, it’s hard for me to move somewhere else. I want them to swiftly deal with the issue.”

Leopalace21 says those who want to replace their timed air conditioner units may visit their nearest branch or call 0120-590080. Office hours are between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.