TOKYO (Reuters) – Heatstroke is suspected in the death of a worker at a Tokyo Olympics construction site, NHK national television said on Friday, as the Japanese capital swelters through a heatwave that has killed dozens of people a year before the Games.
Soaring temperatures have killed at least 57 people across Japan since late July, highlighting the health threat to athletes and fans that is one of the biggest challenges for Olympics planners.
A 50-year-old construction worker who’d been laying cable outside Tokyo Big Sight, which is being renovated to serve as the media centre for Tokyo 2020, was found unconscious on Thursday afternoon and taken to hospital, where he later died, NHK said.
Police were quoted as saying that conditions at the site suggested heatstroke may have been the cause, the broadcaster said, but police declined to confirm the report and Tokyo 2020 organisers were not immediately able to comment.
Temperatures in Tokyo have clung above 31 degrees Celsius (88 Fahrenheit) since July 24, exactly a year before the Games are set to open, with the heat intensifying in August to average daily highs of 34.8 C. It was 35.5 C in Tokyo on Thursday.
At least 57 people died across Japan from the heat between July 29 to Aug. 4 and 18,347 were taken to hospital. Some 45 people have died in Tokyo alone since Aug. 1, NHK said, many of them elderly living on their own.
Olympics organisers plan to take steps to deal with the heat, including shaded rest areas, tents at security checkpoints, mist sprays and ice packs.
The start times for the men’s and women’s marathons, on Aug. 9 and 2 respectively, have been moved to 6:00 a.m. as an additional precaution.
Tokyo is hosting the Olympics for the second time, with the Games running from July 24 to Aug. 9.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Paul Tait)