Italy motorway bridge collapses in heavy rains, killing at least 35

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

By Stefano Rellandini

GENOA, Italy (Reuters) – At least 35 people were killed when a motorway bridge collapsed in torrential rains on Tuesday morning over buildings in the northern Italian port city of Genoa, Italy’s ANSA news agency cited fire brigade sources as saying.

A 50-meter high section of the bridge, including one set of the supports that tower above it, crashed down in the rain onto the roof of a factory and other buildings, crushing vehicles below and plunging huge slabs of reinforced concrete into the nearby riverbed.

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

“People living in Genoa use this bridge twice a day, we can’t live with infrastructures built in the 1950s and 1960s,” Deputy Transport Minister Edoardo Rixi said on SkyNews24, speaking from Genoa.

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy, August 14, 2018. Local Team via Reuters TV/REUTERS

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy, August 14, 2018. Local Team via Reuters TV/REUTERS

Within hours of the disaster, the anti-establishment government which took office in June said it showed Italy needed to spend more to improve its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring EU budget constraints if necessary.

“We should ask ourselves whether respecting these (budget) limits is more important than the safety of Italian citizens. Obviously, for me it is not,” said Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the right-wing League which governs with the 5-Star Movement.

A crushed truck is seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

A crushed truck is seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Helicopter footage on social media showed trucks and cars stranded on either side of the 80-meter long collapsed section of the Morandi Bridge, built on the A10 toll motorway in the late 1960s. One truck was shown just meters away from the broken end of the bridge.

Motorist Alessandro Megna told RAI state radio he had been in a traffic jam below the bridge and seen the collapse.

“Suddenly the bridge came down with everything it was carrying. It was really an apocalyptic scene, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said.

BRIDGE ‘CONSTANTLY MONITORED’

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli told Italian state television the disaster pointed to a lack of maintenance, adding that “those responsible will have to pay.”

But Stefano Marigliani, the motorway operator Autostrade’s official responsible for the Genoa area, told Reuters the bridge was “constantly monitored and supervised well beyond what the law required.”

Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

He said there was “no reason to consider the bridge was dangerous.”

Restructuring work was carried out in 2016 on the 1.2 km-long bridge, first completed in 1967. The motorway is a major artery to the Italian Riviera and to France’s southern coast.

Autostrade, a unit of Atlantia, said work to shore up its foundation was being carried out at the time of the collapse.

But the head of the civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, said he was not aware that any maintenance work was being done on the bridge.

Borrelli said there were 30-35 vehicles on the bridge when the middle section came down, including three lorries. He said 13 people had been hospitalized, including five in a critical condition.

Some 200 firefighters were on the scene, the fire service said, and Sky Italia television said four people had been pulled from the rubble.

Police footage showed firemen working to clear debris around a crushed truck, while other firemen nearby scaled some of the huge broken slabs of reinforced concrete that had supported the bridge.

Firefighters inspect a crushed car at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Firefighters inspect a crushed car at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The government has pledged to increase public investments and lobby the European Commission to have the extra spending excluded from EU deficit calculations.

“The tragic facts in Genoa remind us of the public investments that we so badly need,” said Claudio Borghi, the League’s economy spokesman.

The office of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he was heading to Genoa in the evening and would remain there on Wednesday. Defense minister Elisabetta Trenta said the army was ready to offer manpower and vehicles to help with the rescue operations.

Train services around Genoa have been halted.

Shares in Atlantia, the toll road operator which runs the motorway, were suspended after falling 6.3 percent.

(Reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio; Additional reporting by Angelo Amato; Writing by Gavin Jones and Steve Scherer; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Off-the-grid dream becomes nightmare in New Mexico compound

Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

By Andrew Hay

AMALIA, N.M. (Reuters) – One of the leading members of a group prosecutors accused of abusing children at a New Mexico compound struggled with his plan to live off the grid after he underestimated a harsh mountain desert climate and settled on the wrong plot of land.

Relatives and neighbors say things began to go downhill for Lucas Morton, 39, shortly after he arrived in this vast alpine valley about 40 miles (64 km) north of Taos in a white moving van last December.

His brother-in-law Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, wanted in Georgia for child abduction, soon joined them together with his wife, sister, and children.

The families set up home on a 10-acre plot of land that was near to one owned by Morton, a carpenter, but which actually belonged to U.S. Army veteran Jason Badger. The vet filed a court complaint but the Morton and Wahhaj families stayed on the land.

With snow and bitter north winds, the families began to suffer. At the suggestion of neighbors, Morton dug a hole and put a camping trailer in it to seek shelter.

A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

Land is cheap in the valley, around $850 an acre, but winter temperatures can drop to -30 Fahrenheit (-34 C). Attempts at communal living in northern New Mexico have struggled or failed, going back to 1970s’ communes.

The adults and 11 children used wood to cook, hauled water from neighbors’ wells and got heat from propane heaters. Their shelters kept blowing away, a neighbor said.

Morton was one of five adults arrested at the compound on Aug. 3 on child abuse charges and accused by prosecutors of giving weapons training to a child to carry out school shootings.

No-one was specifically charged over the school shooting accusation and Defense Attorney Aleksandar Kostich told reporters that prosecutors had provided no evidence of the allegation, which came from a foster parent who is caring for one of the children.

Morton was also charged with harboring a felon, Ibn Wahhaj, who was armed with an AR-15 rifle, five magazines of ammunition, and four handguns when arrested, according to police.

Ibn Wahhaj is accused of abducting his seriously-ill, three-year-old son Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj in December from his mother in Georgia. On Monday a body, believed to be that of the boy was found buried at the compound, police said.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe first referred to the suspects as “extremist of the Muslim belief,” but declined to elaborate when later asked about it by reporters.

Public defenders representing the five adults, who are in Taos County jail, did not respond to requests for comment.

Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

‘GET OUT OF SOCIETY’

Morton and his 15-year-old nephew Mohammed last November attended a four-week, $2,500 course in Taos on how to build an “earthship” – an eco-house made largely of earth-filled tires.

“All they wanted to do was get out of society, get away, homestead and live a peaceful life by themselves,” said Morton’s father Gerard Jabril Abdulwali, 64.

Inside Morton’s abandoned van at the compound, “I love my family” is written over hearts drawn on the first page of a notebook belonging to “Aisha,” one of his four children.

There are signs the group made friends locally.

A local man gave Morton hundreds of tires to build an earthship home. A neighbor gave him wood to build bunk beds, and another helped them hook up solar panels.

These people said police drones began to circle the area in late May or June. Badger told local media he had earlier informed Georgia police that the abducted boy was at Morton’s home.

In the next months, the home began to look more like a compound. The families stacked tires around it and built what look like defensive walls. A 150-foot tunnel leads to what appear to be escape holes among sagebrush and Chamisa bushes.

“I got the feeling Lucas didn’t want what he was in anymore,” said neighbor Tyler Anderson, 41, a car-body technician, who showed Morton how to wire up solar panels.

Anderson said near daily target shooting at the house stopped once the drones appeared.

The arrests at the compound made one neighbor, who described himself only as “Quincy,” stand at his gate and cry.

He and other locals disputed police reports the Morton and Wahhaj children were found ragged and starving.

“I made sure everyone in that place had shoes and clothes. They weren’t hungry,” said the man.

Morton’s wife Subhannah Wahhaj, 35, regularly went grocery shopping with Quincy’s wife. Their last trip, was on Aug. 2, Quincy said. Police launched the raid the next day.

(Adds name of army veteran in paragraph 4, corrects name to Morton from Morgan in paragraph 5)

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Aggressive wildfire threatens thousands of homes in southern California city

The Holy Fire spreads in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Lake Elsinore City Hall/via REUTERS

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Hundreds of firefighters were building barriers and constructing containment lines early on Friday to slow an approaching wildfire threatening to torch thousands of homes in a lakeside community southeast of Los Angeles.

A plane dumps fire retardant over the Holy Fire as it spreads in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Lake Elsinore City Hall/via REUTERS

A plane dumps fire retardant over the Holy Fire as it spreads in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Lake Elsinore City Hall/via REUTERS

More than 21,000 people have been evacuated in and around Lake Elsinore where furious flames and billowing smoke rose into the sky at the edge of the city of 60,000 as the blaze, dubbed the Holy Fire, burned nearby in the Santa Ana Mountains.

“It feels like a war zone,” Ana Tran told the Los Angeles Times as ash and flame retardant fell on her neighborhood.

The fire, which was five percent contained, was being fueled by dry brush covering steep terrain and stoked by erratic wind gusts during the night, said Thanh Nguyen, a spokesman for the incident said.

“Strong downdrafts is making the fire move aggressively downhill,” said Nguyen, noting that firefighters were working to build barriers and containment lines to protect more than 2,000 homes at risk from the fire.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries battling the relatively small blaze that consumed more than 10,200 acres (4,128 hectares) since it began on Tuesday, fire officials said.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the area on Thursday, freeing up additional resources to battle the blaze. Forrest Clark, 51, was charged with setting the fire, the Orange County District Attorney Office said.

A plane flies off after dumping fire retardant over the Holy Fire close to a residential area in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Camille Collins/via REUTERS

A plane flies off after dumping fire retardant over the Holy Fire close to a residential area in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. August 8, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Camille Collins/via REUTERS

The Holy Fire was one of several fires burning in California that have displaced tens of thousands of people. Wildfires across the state and region could be further stoked by strong gusts, low humidity, and hot weather on Friday and Saturday, forecasters warned.

In Northern California, a mechanic helping to fight the Carr Fire burning around Redding was killed in a traffic collision on Thursday, bringing the death toll from that blaze to eight, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said. The 178,000-acre Carr Fire has killed two other firefighters along with three members of one family and has destroyed nearly 1,100 homes. It was 49 percent contained with firefighters struggling in steep terrain to control the blaze, CalFire said.

More than 4,000 firefighters are battling the Mendocino Complex Fire, which has burned 305,200 acres in three counties north of San Francisco, CalFire said.

Two firefighters were injured and 119 homes destroyed by that fire which now ranks as the largest fire on record in the state.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Editing by William Maclean)

Congo starts vaccinating health workers against Ebola

A Congolese health worker checks the temperature of a woman before the launch of vaccination campaign against the deadly Ebola virus near Mangina village, near the town of Beni, in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Samuel Mambo

By Fiston Mahamba

MANGINA, Congo (Reuters) – Congolese officials and the World Health Organization began vaccinating health workers against the deadly Ebola virus on Wednesday, to try to halt an outbreak in Congo’s volatile east.

A Reuters witness on a visit to Mangina, the village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where the epidemic was declared, saw health workers in protective suits administering the injections.

So far 43 people are believed to have been infected in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, including 36 who have died, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

“We are putting all our energy and all our expertise to quickly control this epidemic,” Health Minister Oly Ilunga told journalists at the start of the vaccination campaign.

“All the measures of prevention are in place. The vaccination is the last phase. It will enable us to break the chain of transmission of this epidemic.”

More than 900 contacts of those infected have been identified for monitoring, although security is an issue in the area where militia groups operate, WHO said.

The disease, which causes fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, is spread through direct contact with body fluids.

“Around 40 health workers are expected to be vaccinated today; by end of the week, once all the necessary steps are in place, vaccination of community contacts and their contacts will commence,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.

WHO has said that analysis of genetic sequencing showed it was a separate outbreak from the one 2,500 km (1,500 miles) away in the northwest that ended less than two weeks ago after killing 33 people — but the same Zaire strain.

This is Congo’s 10th Ebola outbreak since the virus was first identified near northern Congo’s Ebola river.

“There is a huge fear among the local population,” Kaswera Mathumo, a medical worker at a clinic in Mangina, where the vaccinations were taking place, said.

The experimental vaccine being used, which is manufactured by Merck, proved successful during its first wide-scale usage against the previous outbreak in Equateur Province.

More than 3,000 doses remain in stock in the capital Kinshasa, allowing authorities to deploy them quickly to affected areas.

But they face security challenges in eastern Congo, a region bubbling with conflicts over land and ethnicity stoked by decades of on-off war.

Local authorities announced on Tuesday that 14 bodies had been discovered in the town of Tubameme, about 40 km (25 miles) northeast of the epicenter of the outbreak in the town of Mangina, suspected to have been killed by a militia group.

(Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Tim Cocks and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Fireball near Bologna airport after road crash explosion

A general view of the motorway after an accident caused a large explosion and fire at Borgo Panigale, on the outskirts of Bologna, Italy, August 6, 2018. Italian Firefighters Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

ROME (Reuters) – Two trucks collided on a motorway near Bologna airport in northern Italy on Monday, sending a huge ball of fire and billows of black smoke soaring into the sky.

At least one person was killed and around 55 were injured, 14 seriously, according to local media.

Police said they had closed off the road where the crash took place as well as the surrounding area in Borgo Panigale, on the outskirts of Bologna.

Firefighters work on the motorway after an accident caused a large explosion and fire at Borgo Panigale, on the outskirts of Bologna, Italy, August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Firefighters work on the motorway after an accident caused a large explosion and fire at Borgo Panigale, on the outskirts of Bologna, Italy, August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Italian media said a truck carrying cars collided on a bridge with another tanker truck containing inflammable materials.

Part of the bridge collapsed and the resulting explosion and fire spread to a carpark below the bridge, where several other vehicles caught fire and exploded.

Firefighters and ambulances headed to the scene.

A video shot from a parked car at the moment of the explosion appeared to show someone being engulfed by flames when the tanker exploded.

(Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Heat, winds pose enduring menace to burning Northern California

FILE PHOTO: A firefighter knocks down hotspots to slow the spread of the River Fire (Mendocino Complex) in Lakeport, California, U.S. July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Fred Greaves/File Photo

By Rich McKay and Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – With gusting winds, triple digit temperatures and almost zero chance of rain in Northern California this week, scorching weather poses a persistent threat to firefighters battling out-of-control blazes on parched land, officials said.

“Unfortunately, they’re not going to get a break anytime soon,” said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“It’s pretty doggone hot and dry and it’s going to stay that way,” Hurley said early Monday.

Some areas in Central and Northern California could see 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) and winds of 15 mph (24 kph) with higher gusts that could fan the flames and spread embers, he said.

A massive, out-of-control Northern California wildfire called the Mendocino Complex Fire that destroyed 68 homes and forced thousands to flee has become the fifth largest in state history, officials said on Sunday, as crews battled high temperatures and strong winds.

It has charred more than 266,900 acres (108010.6 hectares) as of late Sunday, making it the fifth largest blaze in California’s history, officials said.

The Mendocino is one of 17 major wildfires burning across California that prompted U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday to declare a “major disaster” in the state, ordering federal funding to be made available to help recovery efforts.

Trump said on his official Twitter account Sunday, “California wildfires are being magnified, made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized.”

Another fire, the nearly two-week-old Carr Fire, claimed another life Saturday, a 21-year-old apprentice lineman, Jay Ayeta, officials with the PG&E Corporation said on Sunday.

Ayeta died when his vehicle crashed as he worked with crews in dangerous terrain to battle in Shasta County.

He was the seventh person to die in that blaze, which has scorched more than 160,000 acres in the scenic Shasta-Trinity region north of Sacramento, including two young children and their great-grandmother whose home was overrun by flames, and two firefighters.

Firefighters had managed to contain 43 percent of the Carr blaze by late Sunday, and authorities were letting some evacuees return.

(Reporting by Rich McKay and Dan Whitcomb, Editing by William Maclean)

At least 40 shot and four killed in a night of Chicago gun violence

Map of Chicago

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – At least 40 people were shot in Chicago over the weekend during the seven hours from midnight Saturday to early Sunday morning, with four fatalities, city police said on Sunday, a stark violent streak in a city where authorities say gun violence has been decreasing this year.

“These were both random and targeted shootings on our streets,” said Fred Waller, Chief of the Patrol Division of the Chicago Police Department, in a press conference.

He said most of the shootings are connected to gang violence in the city of about 2.7 million people, the third-largest in the United States.

Police said gunmen targeted a block party, a gathering after a funeral, and other gatherings on a night where thousands of people gathered for a downtown concert.

Local media reported that the brunt of the violence happened in the city’s West Side, where 25 people were shot in separate attacks.

Waller touted that shootings in 2018 were down from last year.

The Chicago Tribune, which has been tracking shooting statistics, reported earlier this month that shootings in the city have declined, with 533 fewer shootings as of Aug. 1 than the same time in 2017.

“By no means do these statistics show that we have a victory,” Waller said.

He said that police are working with other law enforcement groups to target gang activity.

“I promise we will not be defeated,” Waller said.

More specifics on the shootings were not immediately available late on Sunday.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

Islamic State claims responsibility for Toronto shooting

People write messages on construction boarding after a mass shooting on Danforth Avenue in Toronto, Canada, July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

CAIRO (Reuters) – Islamic state has claimed responsibility for a shooting in Toronto on Sunday that killed two people and wounded 13, the group’s AMAQ news agency said on Wednesday.

The attacker “was a soldier of the Islamic State and carried out the attack in response to calls to target the citizens of the coalition countries,” a statement by the group said.

The group did not provide further detail or evidence for its claim.

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Amina Ismail and John Stonestreet)

Prime wildfire weather is sweeping across western U.S.

The Sierra Hotshots, from the Sierra National Forest, are responding on the front lines of the Ferguson Fire in Yosemite in this US Forest Service photo from California, U.S. released on social media on July 22, 2018. Courtesy USDA/US Forest Service, Sierrra Hotshots/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Brutally hot temperatures, fierce winds and arid conditions will sweep across the U.S. West on Wednesday, and the weather may contribute to an already deadly wildfire season.

Temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 C), winds gusting up to 50 miles (80 km) per hour and humidity levels in the teens are in the forecast for many parts of Oregon, California, Arizona and Nevada on Wednesday and into Thursday, the National Weather Service said in a series of advisories.

The service warned that the weather could lead to more of the fires in the region, which have killed nine firefighters and destroyed more than 2,500 homes.

One of the largest, the Ferguson Fire, forced the Yosemite Valley and other parts of Yosemite National Park to close on Wednesday as smoke filled the air in the popular tourist destination.

The Ferguson Fire, which has been burning since July 13 and has claimed the life of one firefighter, had charred about 37,795 acres (15,295 hectares) to the south and west of the park. It was 26 percent contained as of Tuesday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The park’s Yosemite Valley, Wawona and Mariposa Grove are to be closed at least through Sunday by the fire operations, the National Park Service said.

More than 3,400 personnel using 16 helicopters and 59 bulldozers have been battling the blaze, which has caused six injuries and led to evacuations in parts of the region.

In all, 73 major wildfires are burning in the United States in an area of about 700,000 acres. Most are in western states, with blazes also in central Texas and Wisconsin, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

As of July 24, wildfires had burned through 3.94 million acres this year, above the 10-year average for the same calendar period of 3.54 million acres, it said.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, editing by Larry King)

Heatwave blankets Japan, kills 14 people over long weekend

FILE PHOTO: A volunteer, for recovery work, wipes his sweat as he takes a break in a heat wave at a flood affected area in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 14, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) – An intense heatwave killed at least 14 people over a three-day long weekend in Japan, media reported on Tuesday, and high temperatures hampered the recovery in flood-hit areas where more than 200 people died last week.

Temperatures on Monday, a national holiday, surged above 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 Fahrenheit) in some inland areas and combined with high humidity to produce dangerous conditions, the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

At least 14 people died from the heat over the long weekend, media reports said, including a woman in her 90s who was found unconscious in a field. Thousands more were treated in hospitals for heat-related conditions.

The heat was most intense in landlocked areas such as Gifu prefecture, where it soared to 39.3 Celsius (102.7 F) in the town of Ibigawa on Monday – the hottest in the nation. The capital Tokyo recorded a high of 34 Celsius on Monday.

Temperatures in parts of western Japan hit by deadly floods reached a high of 34.3 Celsius by midday on Tuesday, creating dangerous conditions for military personnel and volunteers clearing mud and debris.

“It’s really hot. All we can do is keep drinking water,” one man in Okayama told NHK television.

Temperatures of 35 or above – known in Japanese as “intensely hot days” – were recorded at 200 locations around Japan on Sunday, the JMA said, which is unusual for July but not unprecedented.

Similar scorching temperatures were reported from 213 locations on a July day in 2014.

Last year, 48 people died from heat between May and September, with 31 deaths in July, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

The current heatwave was due to the layering of two high pressure systems over much of Japan and is expected to continue for the rest of the week if not longer, the JMA said.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Darren Schuettler)