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Record number of heat-related deaths in Malaga last month
Data special report

Record number of heat-related deaths in Malaga last month

In July, some 62 people in the province died due to the extreme temperatures and August is on track for similar numbers

Iván Gelibter / Encarni Hinojosa

Malaga

Monday, 14 August 2023, 10:36

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A record number of people in Malaga province died as a result of the heat in July as rising temperatures threaten to become one of the main causes of mortality in the province.

Almost a hundred people have already lost their lives this summer due to the heat. In July, 62 people from Malaga died, according to Spain's Carlos III Health Institute. The organisation has been recording data on heat-related deaths since 2015. The figures show that last month was the worst for deaths of this kind in the province. Alarmingly, the data also showed that August's figure will not fall far short of this record, if not even surpass it, with 37 heat-related deaths already recorded in 14 days this month.

So far this year, although the figure is concentrated in the summer months, 99 people in Malaga have died due to heat. However, Malaga is not the Andalusian province with the highest number of heat-related deaths. Seville has recorded 155 deaths so far this year, but Almeria tops the list, with 420 deaths. Since 2015, Malaga has recorded 705 heat-related deaths, compared to 706 in Seville, and 3,189 in Almeria.

Eight out of ten deaths last July in Malaga were women, and the same proportion has been repeated so far this month. The statistics at the Andalusian level also shows a similar trend. Dr. Miguel Marcos, medical director at Hospital Quirónsalud Malaga said: "The physiological demands take place at a specific temperature, which in humans is between 35 and 37 degrees. We have a core that regulates that temperature and that is where the body puts its energy so that everything can function well. And when that doesn't happen, either because of cold or heat, a series of mechanisms are set in motion to maintain it".

When heat continues for an extended period of time is when it starts to impact on the body and cause fatigue. "Through the elimination of sweat and humidity, the body tries to compensate for the heat we have and make the thermal sensation lower," the head physician pointed out. "But when fluids are lost, especially in the most vulnerable people (babies and the elderly), dehydration can cause a major imbalance in the metabolism, not only because of the loss of volume, but also because of ion salts that can be altered and can be life-threatening".

Dr Marcos also said that while heat-related deaths among the elderly are more common, heat stroke is starting to rise among young people. "They do not die, but we are receiving many people who exercise at extreme hours of the day or people who take the bike or who go jogging or simply take a walk in the most complicated hours," he said.

Nighttime heat

One of the great risks of a hot summer is that high temperatures do not only occur during the day. When we are awake, we can drink and take measures to avoid risks, but at night we can still suffer the consequences of the heat. "Not hydrating throughout the night, and even more so if the room is not ventilated, is also a risk that is often not taken into account," Dr Marcos said.

While air conditioning can combat that, it can also cause other problems. "Within certain limits and with a suitable temperature, it protects us from extreme heat, but if we do not maintain the filters properly, it can cause respiratory pathologies to enter," Dr Marcos pointed out. "We always recommend that a timer be set, that the room be cooled, that it be maintained, but that it not be on all night. When we are asleep we enter a time where our metabolism slows down and we are more exposed to all these variables around us."

July, the hottest month since records have been kept

This July in Malaga was the hottest since official records of Spain's Aemet state weather agency started, in 1942. Last month was marked not only by the hot terral wind, which swept through the province on 15 of the 31 days of the month, but high humidity on the rest of the days. According to the official weather station located at Malaga Airport, the average temperature was 29.5C, 3.4 degrees higher than the reference period between 1991-2020.

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