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Record temperatures kill 13 people in Bolivia

Thirteen people have died of “heatstroke” in recent days in Bolivia, the Bolivian government said on Monday, as weather authorities reported record temperatures in the country.

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The Minister of Health, Maria René Castro, announced that 13 people had died in the department of Santa Cruz (east), on the border with Brazil.

“These people died of heat stroke,” she said, while specifying that all the victims also suffered from a previous condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

In “100% of cases, there was severe or moderate to severe dehydration. This is the reason why these people died,” she added.

The National Meteorology and Hydrology Service (Senamhi) separately reported on Monday that at least 15 cities in the north, east and southeast of the country recorded heat records.

In the villages of Santa Cruz, the temperature was between 36°C and 41°C, according to Senamhi.

Marisol Portugal of the state meteorological agency cited as an example the peak of extreme heat recorded in the town of Yacuiba – on the border with Argentina – where the thermometer reached 44.9°C, breaking the record for 1974 which was 43°C.

In addition to the heat, the departments of Santa Cruz, Beni (north-east) and La Paz (west) are experiencing significant smoke from forest fires which have not yet been brought under control.

Between Sunday and Monday, flights at Viru-Viru International Airport serving the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra were delayed or suspended.

Defense Minister Edmundo Novillo told a news conference that the government was seeking international cooperation to put out the fires.

This request was relayed by the Venezuelan government, which will deploy around thirty specialized firefighters in the coming hours.

The increase in temperature is exacerbated by the burning of forests and grasslands, a practice used to increase agricultural areas.

The flames have consumed 2.9 million hectares this year, including 2 million hectares of scrub and grasslands and 935,000 hectares of forests, according to the latest report from the Bolivian Ministry of the Environment

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