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VOA Asia Weekly: El Niño, Climate Change Contributed to Southeast Asia Heat Waves

VOA Asia Weekly: El Niño, Climate Change Contributed to Southeast Asia Heat Waves
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New Taiwanese president takes office. Severe air turbulence kills one, severely injures 20. Vietnam appoints new president. Why a group of Korean women are flash mobbing San Diego.

Climate experts warn the recent heat waves throughout Asia underscore the urgent need to adapt to climate change.

Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly.

I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington.

That story is coming up, but first, making headlines:

Taiwan’s former vice president William Lai took the oath of office as the self-governing island’s new president on Monday. His presidency marks the third consecutive term for the Democratic Progressive Party. In his inauguration speech, Lai stressed that he wants peace with China.

“I also want to call on China to stop threatening Taiwan politically and militarily and take on the global responsibility of maintaining peace and stability.”

Beijing criticized President Lai’s speech and labeled him a “dangerous separatist.”

“There is but one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory.”

South Korea and Britain co-hosted a two-day AI summit, urging global cooperation on artificial intelligence regulation. Many world leaders and AI industry leaders attended. South Korean officials say the leaders discussed both “the risk posed by AI” and “its positive aspects.”

One passenger is dead and at least 20 more are severely injured after a Singapore Airline flight from London experienced severe turbulence. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Thailand. A passenger told the media, the plane’s violent movement tossed passengers around the cabin. People slammed their heads into the overhead compartment, denting and shattering a panel.

Vietnam’s National Assembly has appointed its top public security official, To Lam, as the country’s new president. As Vietnam’s former top Security official, Lam led an anti-corruption effort called Blazing Furnace. He oversaw the arrest of thousands of government officials and business leaders in recent years.

The effects of recent record-breaking high temperatures across Asia are far-reaching, from school closures to drought and health advisories. And while climate change is part of the problem, this year it was made worse by the cyclical weather pattern called El Niño.

For this rickshaw driver, April's record heat in Myanmar was unbearable.

"Sometimes, I have to go under the shade and rest for 10 to 15 minutes after I carry the passengers under the sun."

Not far from where he lives, the town of Chauke recorded a temperature of 48. 2 degrees Celsius - the highest ever recorded in Myanmar during April since records began 56 years ago.

Myanmar is not alone. April's heatwave shattered high-temperature records throughout Asia, from Bangladesh to the Philippines. The record heatwave damaged crops, threatening food security, and has been blamed for dozens of deaths around the region. In Tan Phu Dong, Vietnam, the heat evaporated water supplies, leaving salty water behind.

"In salt water, there are generally no plants to grow. You cannot grow whatever you want. And it's the same with livestock farming. We must have fresh water for them to drink."

A new study by the scientists at the World Weather Attribution group concluded that human-caused climate change contributed – making a heatwave 45 times more likely in parts of the continent.

The cyclical weather pattern known as El Niño, that happens when parts of the Pacific Ocean get warmer, also played a role:

“That's something that we increasingly need to adapt to as societies. And so, it means that we need to be ready for things that are more extreme than the average mean… to be ready for extremes that are reinforced by something like an El Niño.”

Officials across the region have organized public awareness campaigns to protect people and issued health warnings. Governments have also set up water and cooling stations in vulnerable areas. Yet only some have developed sustainable strategies to tackle the escalating impacts of the climate crisis.

Due to the larger energy demand for cooling during the heat wave, there have been power outages, electricity rationing, and increased pressure on existing power infrastructure.

While the Monsoon season will likely bring relief from the heatwave, climate scientists warn that being ready for the next extreme heat wave will be critical.

Visit for the most up-to-date stories.

I’m Chris Casquejo.

And finally, a group of women is flash mobbing their way through San Diego, California.

The dance group, Ajumma EXP, aims to break the stereotype associated with the insulting Korean term ajumma, which describes a woman in her late 30s to 70s.

You can spot the group shimmering and dancing in a stereotypical ajumma costume complete with a fluffy perm, vibrant mismatched outfit, a fanny pack, a sun visor and to complete the look, a pair of dishwashing gloves.

Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly.