Three workers die in sweltering heat

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Three workers die in sweltering heat

Koreans are falling victim to the sweltering summer heat wave that has persisted throughout the country.

A farm owner, surnamed Park, called the police after he discovered two of his workers, Kim, 53, and Ma, 35, lying dead on the floor of a septic tank at a pig farm in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang, around 7:20 a.m. on Saturday. Park said he told the two not to work because of the hot weather.

A cleaning crew of five fell unconscious on Friday inside the septic tank of an apartment complex in Yongin, Gyeonggi. One, surnamed Park, 59, died while receiving treatment, while two others, Han, 54, and Kim, 41, were rushed to a nearby South Korean Air Force base equipped with a decompression chamber after they fell into critical condition. The other two are recovering.

Another worker who was present at the time of the accident, Lee, 54, said four laborers were working outside the tank and fainted after they rushed to help one worker who had fallen unconscious alone inside the tank.

Police are still investigating the exact reasons for their deaths, but are said to believe that the men died from the density of toxic gases inside the tanks that had increased because of the hot weather. Temperatures reached highs of 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 degrees Fahrenheit) in Yongin and Gyeongju on Friday.

Two people in their 70s in South Jeolla died from the heat earlier this month.

The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) issued a heat wave warning for Seoul on Friday, as daily highs have averaged near 30 degrees Celsius this month. Numerous heat wave warnings have been issued by the KMA for southern regions of the country.

An official at the KMA said the sweltering weather is due to a hot and humid air mass from the northern Pacific Ocean lingering over the Korean Peninsula. KMA records indicate daily temperatures from July 11 to Aug. 10 in Korea measured an average of 26.2 degrees Celsius, 0.9 degrees Celsius higher than the same period’s average from 1971 to 2000.

Daily temperature highs from July to August averaged 30.4 degrees Celsius, and lows were 23.1 degrees Celsius - 0.7 degrees and 1.3 degrees higher, respectively, than yearly averages from 1971 to 2000.

Weather experts have forecasted that the hot and humid weather will remain until mid-September.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 238 people have received treatment for heat-related injuries, including the five who died.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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