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Scorched Earth: Southeast Asia's Unprecedented Heat Wave

Wherever you're reading this, we hope there's air-conditioning.

As Saigon residents continue to grapple with sweltering temperatures, dehydration and perhaps a little extra irritability due to the weather, Southeast Asia's massive heat wave shows no signs of abating.

According to Wunderground, this month's record temperatures are among the most intense heat waves the region has ever seen, approaching and, in some cases, shattering high temperature records across Southeast Asia.

In Cambodia, temperatures hit a staggering 42.6 degrees Celsius in Preah Vihear on April 15, setting a new national record as Phnom Penh residents melted in the capital's 41-degree heat. Now, as a water shortage looms on the horizon, officials in the country's Banteay Meanchey province are desperate to ease Cambodia's current weather-related woes.

Elsewhere, in Laos, meteorologists recorded a temperature of 42.3C, a national all-time high, in Seno on April 13, while both Thailand and Singapore neared their own respective records.

Though weather experts predicted an especially hot couple of months for the region thanks to this year's El Niño, Southeast Asia has far surpassed the anticipated high temperatures. Malaysia, too, is struggling to deal with the heat: last month, local schools considered closing their doors to students due to the high temperatures.

Just beyond the region, India and China are also feeling the burn. Kozhikode, a coastal city in the Indian state of Kerala, has already broken its all-time high record 35 times this year, most recently climbing to 39.1C. Across southern and eastern India, officials have reported the deaths of over 160 people due to intense heat.

While it's easy to bemoan the heat from one of Saigon's many air-conditioned cafes, Vietnam's real dilemma lies in the Mekong Delta's current drought, the worst in nearly a century. A new record high temperature – 41.8C – was recorded further north, in Nghe An province's Tuong Duong, however it is the millions of dollars in lost GDP down south which have begun to produce climate refugees, who are leaving the region in search of work in larger cities, namely Saigon.

Amid the most expensive weather-related disaster in Vietnam's history, a few of our neighbors have opened up their dams in an effort to aid Mekong Delta residents.

This assistance, however, may be too little too late, as Delta farmers watch their crops wither from the heat, drought and ever-increasing salinization. Worse still is the threat to Saigon's water supply, as elevated saltwater concentrations in the Saigon and Dong Nai Rivers caused Saigon Water Company to halt its water collection on several occasions last month.

While national officials are working to alleviate some of the difficulties imposed by the unprecedented heat wave, Reuters recently dubbed such woes the “new normal” in the region and weather forecasts have the high temperatures continuing through the end of May.

[Photo via South China Morning Post]

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As Drought Continues, Mekong Climate Refugees Leave Home

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