Six die in central Japan heat wave, more than 140 fall ill

A heat wave covering central Japan claimed at least six lives across the country and sent more than 140 to hospitals from heat-related symptoms.

The mercury hit 40.9 degrees Celsius (105.62 degrees Fahrenheit) in the western city of Tajimi on Thursday afternoon, breaking a previous national record of 40.8 degrees Celsius set in 1933, according to the Meteorological Agency. Temperatures also soared to new records in Tokyo and across the country, spurring holiday makers to take cover indoors.

Six people died overnight in eastern Japan from heatstroke, including a 13-year-old boy who collapsed in Tokyo after basketball practice, the Yomiuri newspaper reported. Many others were hospitalized.

Tokyo Electrical Power Co. warned of a power shortage as people turned up their air conditioners. The company has been firing up old thermal power stations and buying electricity from rivals after a strong earthquake ravaged its largest nuclear power reactor, reducing its electricity output by more than 10 percent.

Elsewhere, rail tracks were bent out of shape in the sun, and firefighters struggled to deal with fire alarms set off erroneously by rising temperatures, according to news reports.

The heat also got the best of sumo wrestler Takamisakari, who smashed into his practice room window as he nearly collapsed following practice on Thursday, reports said.