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Thailand hit by record heat wave


An elephant is being sprayed with water to cool off at Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, Thailand (AP)

An elephant is being sprayed with water to cool off at Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, Thailand (AP)

An elephant is being sprayed with water to cool off at Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, Thailand (AP)

People in Thailand are being urged to stay indoors as the country experiences the longest heat wave in at least 65 years.

The average peak temperature each day in April has been above 40C (104F), with the mercury rising to 44.3C (111.7 F) one day - just short of the all-time heat record.

The heat wave has also fuelled a new record for energy consumption and prompted health warnings on everything from food-related illness to drowning, both of which rise every April when Thailand's hottest month coincides with the school summer break.

Surapong Sarapa, head of the Thai Meteorological Department's weather forecast division, said: "As of now we can say we've broken the record for the highest temperatures over the longest duration in 65 years - and the season isn't over yet."

Thailand began keeping national weather records after 1950.

"1960 was the last time the weather was this hot," he said.

Exactly 56 years ago, on April 27 1960, Thailand experienced its hottest day ever recorded with 44.5C (112F) in the northern province of Uttaradit.

Countries across Southeast Asia are feeling the heat, which scientists say is triggered by El Nino, a warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide and tends to push global temperatures up.

El Nino has also been blamed for causing the worst drought in decades across the region.

Thailand's Department of Disease Control has warned people to beware of food poisoning and other food-related illnesses that typically increase during hot weather when bacteria can thrive on unrefrigerated food.

"Stay indoors, try to limit activity outdoors. Wear sunglasses, wear hats with large brims. Drink more water than usual," the disease control centre said in a statement this week.

It also reminded people of the increased risk of drowning in hot weather as children flock to Thailand's beaches, ponds and lakes to take a swim.

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"Do not let young children out of your sight for even a brief moment," the statement said.

It noted that an average of 90 children die every month in Thailand from drowning but that number increases to about 135 in April.

"This April is so hot. I've got the air conditioner and fan turned on at home. And I'm keeping ice cream in my fridge at all times," said Jarossanon Thovicha, 30, a Bangkok resident who works in the fashion industry.

"My husband and I have been going out to the mall and spending time there over the weekends to save on electricity at home."

Nationwide, energy consumption set a record high on Tuesday at 29,004.6 megawatts, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) said.

It was the latest in a series of peaks reached earlier this month, and EGAT is urging the public not to keep air conditioners on all day.

"We are asking for public co-operation in conserving energy for one hour a day from 2pm to 3pm until May 20," the national power utility said.

The Dusit Zoo in Bangkok said it is taking extra precautions to make sure its animals stay safe.

"Monkeys and apes at the zoo are getting fruit popsicles," Saowaphang Sanannu, head of conservation and research at the zoo, said.

Oranges, watermelon, pineapple and other fruit get chopped up, mixed with fruit juice or water and are then frozen for the chimpanzees, orangutans and other primates.

Bears already have waterfall displays in their habitats, so can take dips whenever they want.

"Tigers are getting meat popsicles. We'll freeze pork legs and chunks of meat to feed them and cool them off at the same time," Saowaphang Sanannu said.

"Deer, giraffes and elephants get increased shade and sprinklers to provide rain and decrease the heat on the ground."

Temporary relief is forecast later this week with scattered tropical storms.

However, it will be brief, with the heat expected to return next week before tapering off in mid-May when the monsoon rains are expected.

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