Heat wave hits northern, central Vietnam

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Foreign tourists wear non la (conical hats) as they walk through the old quarter in the historic port of Hoi An in the central province of Quang Nam

A hot spell has sent temperatures in Hanoi and nearby provinces to 43 degrees Celsius (109.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

According to the National Center for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting, the month of May will see two to three hot spells in northern and central regions, with the average temperature forecast to be 0.5-1 degree Celsius higher than the same period last year.

According to center, temperatures in Hanoi and several northern provinces hovered near 42-43 degrees Celsius at around 1 p.m. on Tuesday (May 1), prompting residents flock to air-conditioned supermarkets, cinemas and other indoor entertainment areas to avoid the heat.

Many Hanoi families took their children to supermarkets which in Vietnam often have food courts, cafés and game rooms and stayed there until the late afternoon when the heat receded.

Meanwhile, residents from Hanoi's neighboring provinces flocked to the capital's botanical gardens and its zoo on May Day to enjoy the shade of the big trees.

In the central region, hot weather combined with hot and dry westerly winds left the streets empty.

The temperature in Nghe An Province, which is said to be the hottest province in the region, reached 39 degrees Celsius at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

People flocked to Cua Lo Beach in Nghe An and Xuan Thanh and Thien Cam beaches in Ha Tinh Province in the early mornings and at sunset throughout the holiday weekend. The beaches were deserted as the sun blazed down from mid-morning to late afternoon.

An annual boat race at the Cua Lo Beach that usual attracts an average crowd of 10,000 saw only several hundred in the crowd this year.

Le Thanh Hai, deputy director of the National Center for Hydro-meteorological Forecasting, said the hot spell in northern and central regions will last for several more days.

The scorching heat also made it difficult to extinguish forest fires raging in central Vietnam.

On the evening of May 1, park rangers, militiamen and residents in Nghe An Province's Nghi Loc District were mobilized to extinguish a fire in a local pine forest.

Residents said they had to walk five kilometers across the mountainous forest to get to the fire and extinguish it. Local said the whole exercise was made extremely difficult by the heat. The cause of the blaze has yet to be ascertained.

On April 30, another forest fire broke out in a forest in Phong Dien District in Thua Thien-Hue Province due to the sudden explosion of an unexploded bomb leftover from the war.

Two other bombs were ignited due to the fire that took several hours to extinguish after destroying five hectares of forest.

Koos Neefjes, senior advisor on climate change at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Vietnam, said Vietnam needed to prepare for more of the same thanks to climate change.

"Yes, temperatures are also rising in Vietnam," he said.

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