Hundreds of people dead as heatwave hits US and Canada
Hundreds of people are feared to have died in record high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada.
Authorities have set up cooling centers, distributed water to the homeless and taken other measures as the mercury soared to 46C in cities like Seattle and Portland.
The death toll in the state of Oregon has reached 79. In Canada, BC Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe has said there have been reports of at least 486 “sudden deaths. and unexpected ”between last Friday and Wednesday.
In Multnomah County, Oregon, the oldest person to die was 97 and the youngest 44.
County authorities turned nine air-conditioned county libraries into cooling centers, where 7,600 people cooled off between Friday and Monday. Officials recognize that this is not enough and say there are lessons to be learned.
Authorities in Washington state have linked more than 20 deaths to the heat, but officials said that number is likely to rise.
The Office of Oregon Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps said, “Learning about the tragic loss of life in the recent heat wave is heartbreaking. As an emergency manager – and an Oregonian – it’s devastating that people haven’t been able to access the help they need during an emergency. “
Among the dead was a farm worker who collapsed on Saturday and was found by co-workers in rural St Paul, Oregon.
Workers had moved irrigation pipes, a spokesperson for the state workers’ safety agency said.
Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) “is exploring the adoption of emergency requirements, and we continue to engage in discussions with worker and employer stakeholders.”
The spokesperson added that employers are required to provide sufficient water, shade, extra breaks and training on heat hazards.
An executive order issued in March 2020 by Oregon Governor Kate Brown would formalize workers’ heat protection, but it’s too late for the deceased farm worker.
Ms Brown’s order focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and also tells Oregon Health Authority and Oregon OSHA to jointly propose standards to protect workers from excessive heat and smoke forest fires.
They had until June 30 to submit the proposals, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, both agencies requested that the deadline be extended to September.
In Bend, Oregon, a scenic town next to the snow-capped Cascade Range, the bodies of two men were found on a road on Sunday where dozens of homeless people are staying in trailers and tents.
Volunteer Luke Richter said he entered the trailer where one of the men, Alonzo “Lonnie” Boardman, was found.
“It was very clearly too late. It was basically a microwave in there, ”Richter told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Cooling stations were set up at the campsite on Saturday, with water, sports drinks and ice available.
Weather experts say the number of heat waves is only expected to increase in the Pacific Northwest, an area normally known for its cool and rainy weather, with a few hot and sunny days mixed, and where many people did not. no air conditioning.
“I think the community needs to be realistic that we’re going to have this as a more routine and not one-time event, and that we need to prepare as a community,” said Dr. Steven Mitchell of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. , which has treated an unprecedented number of severe heat-related cases.
“We really need to increase our response to disasters. “
This week’s heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the northwest and made worse by man-made climate change, making these extreme weather events more likely and more intense.