The mercury soared to 41.1 C in a central Japan city on Monday, tying with the highest-ever temperature recorded in the country in 2018, as a heat wave continued to engulf wide areas, claiming lives and sending people to hospitals.

Temperatures in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, rose to 41.1 C after recording 40.9 C on Sunday afternoon, as people nationwide sought to fight the summer heat amid the coronavirus pandemic despite wearing face masks. The weather agency also warned the heat is likely to stay.

People wearing face masks amid the novel coronavirus pandemic walk under the sun in Hamamatsu, central Japan city, on Aug. 17, 2020. (Kyodo) 

Temperatures have risen rapidly in recent days amid fears that mask-wearing to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus could cause heat-related incidents such as heat exhaustion.

In Hamamatsu, a 50-year-old woman said, "It feels all the more hot when I am wearing a mask." Another woman in her 60s said, "I've lived in this city in a long while, but this is the first time it's been this hot."

Yuko Ishigami, 38-year-old housewife visiting Hamamatsu from the city of Shizuoka, said, "It feels as if hot wind is blowing."

The Japan Meteorological Agency warned the public to take preventive measures against heat-related illness, as scorching heat is expected to continue for some time, with wide areas of Japan likely to see the mercury reach 38 C on Tuesday.

On Monday, temperatures rose above 39 C in cities located in Nagano, Gifu, Nara, Kochi and Miyazaki prefectures, according to the agency.

Meanwhile the mercury in central Tokyo reached 36.5 C and 37.1 C in Osaka, with temperatures rising above 35 degrees for three and four straight days, respectively.

Of the country's 921 observation spots, 655 locations saw the mercury rise over 30 C, of which 263 observed temperatures of over 35 degrees. Record high temperatures were also seen in 26 areas including Hamamatsu, Sumoto, Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan, and Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture, in the country's southwest.

Japan has been experiencing extraordinary heat in recent days, with temperatures in the cities of Isesaki and Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture, logging 40.5 C last week. The mercury in other parts of Japan also eclipsed 39 C on Sunday.

The mercury last hit 41.1 C in July 2018 in the city of Kumagaya in Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, eclipsing the previous record of 41.0 C marked in August 2013 in Shimanto, Kochi Prefecture, in western Japan.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said last Wednesday that 10 people died and 6,664 were rushed to hospitals in the week through Aug. 9 due to heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

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