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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 07:53 GMT 08:53 UK
Seven die in Chinese heat wave
A Chinese woman walks past an advertisement showing a fish encased in ice on the streets of Beijing
Cold air from the north is now cooling down the capital
At least seven people have died and thousands have been hospitalised due to a heat wave which has engulfed China since last week, press reports said on Wednesday.

Five of the casualties died in the south-western city of Chongqing, one of China's hottest cities, the Chongqing Economic Daily reported.

More than 3,500 people were also hospitalised in the city, where temperatures reached 41C (106F) on Monday, the paper said.

But the weather was forecast to cool in the next few days, with top temperatures in the capital, Beijing, hovering around 35-37C.

Widespread deaths

It was unclear exactly how the fatalities occurred, but one man who died in Chongqing was reported to have perished after leaving a swimming pool.

And a 19-year-old woman died of dehydration after getting off a train in neighbouring Hunan province, the Hongwang news website reported.

A 50-year-old farmer in the northern city of Xian was also said to have died as a result of the heat.

There are concerns that heat waves such as these, which are not uncommon in Beijing, could hamper the Olympic Games to be staged in the capital in 2008.

They are due to take place in late July or early August when the city is usually at its hottest.

The heat has intensified in recent years as a result of the increase in vehicles on the roads, which raise street temperatures.

See also:

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