Spain's record-breaking heat of summer 2022 caused more than 350 deaths from heatstroke and dehydration and was a decisive factor in a 20.5 percent increase in mortality, official figures showed Tuesday.
The National Statistics Institute (INE) said in a statement that 157,580 people had died in the summer months between May and August, 26,849 more than in 2019, prior to the Covid pandemic.
"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)," it 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.
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 percent.
Also higher were deaths from diabetes, up 31.2 percent, and dementia and early-onset dementia, which jumped by 19.8 percent.
Last year, Spain experienced its hottest year since records began in 2016, the AEMET weather agency said.
The report came out as Spain experienced its first summer heatwave, which on Monday pushed the mercury to 44.4 degrees Celsius (111.9 degrees Fahrenheit) in the southwestern Huelva province.
So far, two people have died as a result of the heat, officials said.
On 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 kilometres (100 miles) south of Madrid, the mayor told Cadena Ser radio.
Temperatures were slightly lower Tuesday than they had been on Monday but still over 40C in parts of the country. The intense heat was expected to last until Thursday.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, 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.
© Agence France-Presse
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