The Japanese government is warning of possible power shortages in the Tokyo region, asking people to conserve energy as the country endures an unusually intense heat wave.
- Isezaki, north of Tokyo, has experienced its hottest-ever June day
- Two people are reported to have died due to the heat while hundreds have been hospitalised
- Japan has asked families to conserve energy between July 1 and September 30
After the rainy season in Tokyo ended at its earliest since record-keeping began, the Japanese archipelago has seen record high temperatures for June in some areas.
The Economy and Industry Ministry urged people living in the region serviced by the Tokyo Electric Power Company to conserve power in the afternoon, especially when demand peaks at 4-5pm (local time).
Director of electricity supply policy at the ministry Kaname Ogawa said electricity demand was bigger than expected.
“We are struck by unusual heat for the season,” Mr Ogawa said.
Authorities advised turning off lights not in use, limiting use of air conditioners and guarding against the risk of heat stroke.
In Isezaki, north of Tokyo, the temperature rose to 40.2 degrees on Saturday, the highest ever for June.
Temperature in downtown Tokyo rose to nearly 35C on Monday.
Weather officials announced the earliest end to the annual summer rainy season since the Japan Meteorological Agency began keeping records in 1951.
The rains usually temper summer heat, often well into July.
TEPCO was expecting contributions from the Tohoku Electric Power Company, which serves Japan’s northern prefectures, to help ease the crunch.
Tokyo residents said they were doing their best to comply, but some queried the requests.
“It’s not that I don’t get what the government’s saying, but they want us to save electricity and still use air conditioning — which seems contradictory,” said Kenichi Nagasaka, 61.
Nuclear power shutdown, coal plant retirement adds to crunch
More than 250 people were taken to hospitals in Tokyo over the weekend for heat stroke treatment, according to the Mainichi newspaper.
The heat is suspected to have caused two deaths over the weekend, one of a man in his 40s who collapsed outdoors, local media reported.
Power supply is relatively tight after Japan idled most of its nuclear reactors after 2011 meltdowns in Fukushima.
It also has been closing down old coal plants to meet promises for reducing carbon emissions.
Japan also faces a potential shortage of fossil fuel imports amid sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Energy providers and the government have taken steps to avert a power crunch during the peak summer demand period.
They have asked families and businesses to conserve energy between July 1 and September 30, while rebooting ageing, gas-fired power plants and altering maintenance plans for nuclear reactors.