A blistering heat wave has hit Hanoi and northern and central provinces in recent days, leaving streets deserted and air conditioners on full blast.

At night, many families tour the streets on their motorbikes to keep cool. Many carry two or three children and the family dog.

The temperature in the capital soared above 40 degrees Celsius, the highest officially recorded on May 23.

In northern and central provinces , the mercury leapt to between 36 and 39 degree, according to the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.

In Quy Hop and Tay Hieu in central Nghe An Province, the temperature also reached more than 40 degrees.

The heat wave was weaker in Hanoi and the north on May 24, but no relief is expected until May 26.

Nguyen Duc Hoa, deputy head of the centre's Medium and Long-term Meteorological Forecasting Office told Dan Viet (Vietnamese People) online newspaper that high temperatures and heat waves would last until July.

He agreed that this year, the heat waves seem to last longer than in previous years.

Normally, a heat wave would last three to five days, weaken over the next few days, and then return.

However, the first heat wave this month began on May 9 and was quickly followed by two more.

He warned that temperatures of more than 42 degrees could hit Hanoi during summer.

Minister of Construction Trinh Dinh Dung has urged relevant authorities to take all possible measures to supply adequate levels of fresh tap water to city people, particularly on days of extreme heat.

At the meeting with the municipal construction department and the water supply company Vinaconex on May 22, Dung asked relevant authorities to work on methods to distribute water to the whole city and resolve technical issues, problems that have led to water shortages in some areas across the city.

"Ensuring that no households are without water is the most urgent task", he said.

Currently, there are 18 water plants in the city. Vinaconex Clean Water JSC supplies 30 percent of the city's total water demand.

In the past several days, people in many districts have suffered dehydration with temperatures reaching up to 39 degrees Celsius.

In Thanh Xuan District, people in Khuong Trung, Khuong Dinh and Khuong Ha wards have been forced to buy clean water at high cost.

Le Van Huynh, a resident in Khuong Dinh Ward, said water supplies started to dry up last week. It took Huynh four hours using a pump to fill up his 1-cubic-metre tank.

Many households have had to pump water from wells, but even then the water has been dirty and in limited portions, he said.

Some areas in the Tay Ho, Hoang Mai and Ha Dong districts are in the same situation.

Director of the municipal Department of Construction Le Van Duc said the water shortage on hot days had been caused by a spike in the demand for water by city residents, power cuts, and the degradation of underground water sources due to over-exploitation.

Duc said water supplies would be difficult to guarantee if the water pipeline from the Da River to Hanoi kept breaking.

The water has ruptured on five separate occasions since it was put into operation in 1997, leaving thousands of households in the city without fresh water for days.

Nguyen Van Ton, CEO of the Vinaconex Clean Water JSC said that there was about 80,000 cubic metres of unused water left in the Da River, but substandard water pipes had made it inaccessible to households in need of fresh water.

Constant breakages and leaks was out of the company's control, he said, adding that the best way to resolve the problem had been to replace it with another pipeline system built with better materials.

The construction of 29km long pipeline from the Belt Road 3 to Hoa Lac T-Junction would supply more 80,000 cubic metres to the city. However, the investment capital of about 1.1 trillion VND (52.3 million US$) was a big problem to the company. The company has proposed the city authority to get loans with favourable interest rate of 5-6 percent per year, he said.

The construction of the Da River Water Plant, now in its second phase, was also a key measure to curb the current water shortage.

Minister Dung also asked authorities to mobilise additional water container trucks to areas in need of fresh water. He also instructed the department to invest more money in speeding up the construction of the water plant.-VNA