Australia continues to endure record January heat wave
Australia has endured hot summers in previous, but 2019 is already bringing to a historicheatwave affecting people, animals, and electricity across the continent due to the rising temperatures on Tuesday, according to The Straits Times.
Forecasts in the southern half of the country have reached above 118 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius) within the last week, prompting Australia’s State Emergency Service to declare the heat wave a threat to public safety after a spike in heat-associated illnesses.
Hospitals and emergency services said they had to cope with a large number of people with heatstroke and heat exhaustion, especially seniors.
Many Australians were trying to find refuge at the beach, while fans attending the Australian Open in Melbourne managed the heat thanks to mist tunnels set up at the tennis event.
More than 50 fires have broken out across Tasmania, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, while another fire was burning in East Gippsland in Victoria.
The Washington Post reported the uniquely Australian threat of snakes taking up refuge inside people’s bathrooms due to the rising temperatures.
Luke Huntley, a snake catcher in Queensland, described a growing need for his services in removing snakes from people’s bathrooms, including a seven-foot python, “With the hot days and dry weather, these snakes are trying to hydrate and stay cool just like us.”
Australian Helen Richards also told the Australian Broadcast Corp. about being bitten by a python snake hiding in her own toilet bowl.
National Public Radio said the heat was becoming a security risk after inmates staged a violent protest over the heat in their cells at Alice Springs Correctional Center since they did not have air-conditioning.
The heatwave is also challenging Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government due to his continued support of coal mining and coal power plants.
The electricity grid has strained under the intense demands due to the heat, with blackouts appearing all across southern Australia last Friday.
Authorities said more than 200,000 customers were left without power due to forced outages for the health of the entire grid.
Climate researchers said the future would contain similar heatwaves for Australia, which have already killed more people than all other natural hazards, according to a study published in 2014.
“Extreme temperatures are projected to far exceed current temperature records by a large margin in just a few decades. We cannot continue to prepare and approach heatwaves as though they are just a minor inconvenience,” said Australian climate scientist Sophie Lewis on Twitter last Friday.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said temperatures would likely remain above average from February through April across the country.
–WN.com, Maureen Foody
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