As the thermometers rise once more for the July and August heat, Spain´s official figures have showed that last year broke all records including that of mortality due to the heat – indeed claiming that it caused more than 350 deaths from heatstroke and dehydration and was a decisive factor in a 20.5% increase the country´s death rate.
The National Statistics Institute (INE) said in a statement that 157,580 people died in the summer months between May-August last year, which is 26,849 more than in the last pre-pandemic figures in 2019.
‘Among the causes of deaths directly related to the heat were heatstroke (122 cases compared with 47 in 2019) and dehydration (233 cases compared to 109),’ the INE said.
Heat can kill by inducing heatstroke, which damages the brain, kidneys and other organs, but it can also trigger other conditions such as a heart attack or breathing problems.
Spain´s leading private health group HM Hospital´s International Director, Javier Casquero, said that people coming from cooler climates should beware the heat and follow their guidelines for a safe holiday in the sun.
Many of the extra deaths were ‘due to prior chronic pathologies identified as at risk during high temperatures’, the institute said. Deaths due to high blood pressure related conditions increased by 36.9%.
Also higher were deaths from diabetes, up 31.2%, and dementia and early-onset dementia, which jumped by 19.8%.
Spain has already experienced its first summer heatwave of this year, which on Monday pushed the mercury to 44.4 C in Andalucian province of Huelva.
So far, two people have died as a result of the heat, officials said. Last Saturday, a 47-year-old man collapsed with sunstroke while working in the fields in Aznalcollar, a small town near the southern city of Seville. Officials said he had pre-existing health issues.
And a farmer died of heatstroke on Monday while working in his vineyard in Cinco Casas, a village some 160 km south of Madrid, the local mayor told Cadena Ser radio.
Spain has banned outdoor work during periods of extreme heat after the death of a municipal worker in Madrid last summer and set legal maximum and minimum temperatures for workplaces.
Temperatures in Madrid dipped slightly from the almost 40 degrees recorded in the capital at the beginning of last week.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation, Europe is the world’s fastest-warming continent, and experts say Spain is likely to be one of the countries worst hit by climate change.
Although it has become accustomed to soaring summer temperatures, notably in the south, Spain has experienced an uptick in longer and hotter heatwaves and a worrying shortage of rainfall.