In the Philippines, it’s ‘so hot you can’t breathe’ as heat index touches 47 degrees Celsius

Extreme heat scorched the Philippines on Wednesday, forcing schools in some areas to suspend in-person classes and prompting warnings for people to limit the amount of time spent outdoors.

The months of March, April and May are typically the hottest and driest in the archipelago nation, but conditions this year have been exacerbated by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

With heat in ‘danger’ levels, Philippine schools suspend classes

“It’s so hot you can’t breathe,” said Erlin Tumaron, 60, who works at a seaside resort in Cavite province, south of Manila, where the heat index reached 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday.

“It’s surprising our pools are still empty. You would expect people to come and take a swim, but it seems they’re reluctant to leave their homes because of the heat.”

The heat index was expected to reach the “danger” level of 42 degrees or higher in at least 30 cities and municipalities on Wednesday, the state weather forecaster said. The heat index measures what a temperature feels like, taking into account humidity.

There was a 50 per cent chance of the heat intensifying in the coming days, said Ana Solis, chief climatologist at the state weather forecaster.

“We need to limit the time we spend outdoors, drink plenty of water, bring umbrellas and hats when going outdoors,” Solis said.

Filipinos take a dip in the Norzagaray River, the Philippines’ Bulacan province, earlier this month. March, April and May are typically the hottest and driest months in the archipelago nation, but conditions this year have been exacerbated by the El Nino weather phenomenon. Photo: AFP

Solis said El Nino was the reason for the “extreme heat” affecting swathes of the country. Around half the country’s provinces are officially in drought.

The northern municipality of Aparri endured a heat index of 48 degrees on Tuesday, the highest in the country, and was expected to hit 45 degrees on Wednesday. The actual maximum air temperature was 36.4 degrees on Tuesday, with 35 degrees forecast for Wednesday.

“It’s really hot here,” Eric Vista of the municipal disaster agency said. Vista said a shower of rain on Tuesday night had offered some temporary relief, but it was “back to being super hot” on Wednesday.

Sweltering temperatures in the capital Manila forced many schools to switch to remote learning. The heat index reached 45 degrees on Tuesday and was expected to hit 44 degrees on Wednesday. Tuesday’s actual high in the city was 37.1 degrees.

A worker unloads an ice block at a public market in Manila on another hot day in the Philippines earlier this month. Photo: Reuters

In Dagupan city, north of Manila, university employee Edz Alteros said she and her colleagues no longer went out for lunch because of the heat. The heat index there reached 47 degrees on Tuesday.

“We get somebody to buy food and we eat inside the office,” Alteros, 27, said. “The air conditioning is set at 14 to 18 degrees during the hottest part of the day, but we ease up at other times to prevent the air con breaking down.”

The Philippines ranks among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

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