More than 60 people in Oregon died from health issues related to the sweltering conditions in the region as three consecutive days of record-setting temperature pushed the mercury to 117 degrees in the Beaver State on Monday.
Authorities in Canada and Washington state also reported a surge of more than 100 deaths likely tied to the brutal heat, in a region of North America where many are unaccustomed to extreme temperatures and don’t have air conditioning.
Oregon’s grim death toll of at least 63 was based on reports from county medical examiners, but the number could go up even further as officials determine more causes of death, state police told the Oregonian.
Nearly three quarters of the Oregon fatalities were in Portland’s Multnomah County, according to the report. The victims in that area ranged from 44 to 97, and many of them were found alone with no air conditioning or fans, the article said.
The prevailing cause of death was hyperthermia — the body’s failure to deal with an abnormally high body temperature, officials said.
The blistering heat reached the triple digits on Saturday with a high of 108 in Portland and the highs continued to climb to 116 on Monday, when 491 people called for emergency medical assistance in the county, according to the newspaper.
The amount of urgent care and emergency department visits over the weekend was more than the usual number for an entire summer, Multnomah County spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti told the outlet.
Canada set nationwide record temperatures for three days in a row, culminating in an unbearable 121 degree reading in Lytton, British Columbia Tuesday.
In that province, at least 233 deaths were reported from Friday to Monday afternoon, about 100 more than in a normal four-day period, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said.
Medical examiners are still working to determine to what extent heat played a role in the fatalities.
In Vancouver, police responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since the heat wave began Friday.
“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,” Vancouver police Sgt. Steve Addison said in a statement.
More than a half-dozen deaths in Washington state appeared to be tied to the brutal weather, and officials expected that number to increase.
While coastal areas had cooled by Wednesday, heat warnings remained in effect in southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
The heat wave was caused by a dome of high pressure over the region, and exacerbated by rising global temperatures, which makes extreme weather more common and intense, meteorologists said.
With AP wires