updated 7/9/2004 3:59:30 PM ET 2004-07-09T19:59:30

A heat wave sweeping much of Japan has killed seven people, most of them elderly, and left at least 12 others hospitalized in serious condition, officials and news reports said Friday.

Temperatures have hit around 95 degrees in some Japanese cities this week. In central Tokyo, it hit a record 95.18 on Thursday, although the temperature in the capital slightly dropped to 94.1 on Friday.

A 67-year-old farmer was found lying in his paddy field by his wife Friday in the town of Edosaki, about 50 miles northeast of Tokyo, Ibaraki prefectural (state) police spokesman, Hironori Nonaka said.

The farmer was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead of heat stroke, Nonaka said.

Heat stroke also claimed the lives of a 74-year-old woman working on a farm in Tomioka, north of Tokyo, and a man in his 50s, who had collapsed on a street in the western metropolis of Okasa on Friday.

On Thursday, three women, all in their 70s, died after developing apparent symptoms of heat stroke — two near Tokyo and another in Mie, western Japan, police officials said. They said a carpenter in his 20s died in Saitama, near Tokyo, while working outside in the heat.

Of the 56 people taken to hospitals suffering from heat stroke nationwide Friday, two of them were in serious condition, said Tokyo Fire Department spokesman Takahiro Kinoshita. Ten others remained in serious condition after being hospitalized for heat-related afflictions on Thursday, he said.

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