The heat wave that gripped the nation for the past two weeks has been described by the Meteorological Agency as a "life-threatening disaster." More than 22,000 people across Japan were taken to hospitals on an emergency basis in the week to last Sunday, and heatstroke claimed the lives of at least 65 people over this period — the largest weekly toll since the government began compiling comparable statistics in 2008. The death toll in Tokyo's 23 wards for this month reached 71 on Tuesday — with as many as 14 succumbing on Sunday alone — compared with a total of 25 in the same month last year.

The disaster-level weather should not be shrugged off as a one-off phenomenon in an unusually hot summer. Given the greater frequency of such extreme weather, society must make more concerted and continuous efforts to better protect its weakest members from the hazards of extreme temperatures, including heatstroke, which claims hundreds of lives each year.

In recent weeks, the nation has been hit by a series of extreme weather conditions, such as the extended downpours in western Japan that left more than 200 dead in floods and landslides earlier this month. In the ongoing heat wave, temperatures have reached 40 degrees in many parts of the country — hitting a record 41.1 degrees in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, on Monday and also topping 40 degrees in Tokyo for the first time on record. The agency warns that the intense heat could continue through early August.