Berlin: According to a preliminary report by Germany's public health agency, around 3,100 people have died this year due to high temperatures.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said the largest share of heat-related deaths in Germany this year were in the age group of 75 and older.
Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said a heat protection plan launched this summer helped to keep deaths below the 4,000-mark. "Many lives saved," Lauterbach wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
The plan included targeted messaging for older people and those with underlying conditions so they could protect themselves better in extreme heat, among other measures.
The report will be updated later this fall. The RKI found that heat-related mortality was higher among women than men, but this was likely due to the fact that there are more elderly women than men in Germany.
Higher temperatures leading to more deaths
The RKI reported 4,500 heat-related deaths last year, but said the number of fatalities was unusually high last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since 2013, the years 2018, 2019 and 2015 saw some of the highest numbers, each with over 6,000 heat-related deaths.
In 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2021, the estimated number of heat-related deaths was somewhere between 1,000 and 1,700 and therefore significantly lower. "These differences can be attributed to the different degrees of heat episodes," the report said.
RKI said the figures were an estimate using statistical methods, combining mortality rates from the Federal Statistical Office and the DWD weather service temperature measurements.
In most cases, the combination of heat and pre-existing conditions leads to death. Death certificates rarely have heat listed as the cause of the death.
Heat kills because it raises the risk of health conditions because the body's organs, like the kidney or the heart, are affected by a rise in internal temperature.
People with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures.
A scientific journal
earlier this year said around 8,000 people had died in Germany last year between May and September.
Deadly heat waves around the world
Deadly heat waves are becoming more common every year because of climate change, scientists have said. They are also hotter now because of more than a half century of burning of coal and oil, scientists have said.
The European climate service Copernicus said in a report this August that it was the hottest ever recorded with modern equipment. So far, 2023 was the second-hottest year on record, according to Copernicus.