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Dublin: 15°C Friday 24 September 2021
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Dozens of deaths may be tied to historic US-Canadian heatwave

In Vancouver, police have responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since the heatwave began.

Image: Ted S. Warren

THE TOLL OF the historic heatwave that has scorched the Pacific Northwest has become more apparent as authorities in Canada, Washington state and Oregon said they were investigating dozens of deaths likely to have been caused by temperatures that soared well above 37 degrees.

In Vancouver, police said they had responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since the heatwave began on Friday. Authorities in Washington and Oregon were investigating about a dozen deaths.

“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,” Vancouver police Sergeant Steve Addison said in a statement.

The heatwave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the Northwest and worsened by human-caused climate change, which is making extreme weather events more likely and more intense.

Seattle, Portland and many other cities shattered all-time heat records, with temperatures in some places reaching above 46 degrees.

Amid the dangerous heat and drought gripping the American West, crews are closely monitoring wildfires that can explode in the intense weather.

While the temperatures had cooled considerably in western Washington, Oregon and British Columbia by yesterday, the interior regions were still sweating through triple-digit temperatures as the weather system moved east.

The Environment Canada agency issued heat warnings yesterday for southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Heat warnings also were in place for parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

In Alberta, “a prolonged, dangerous, and historic heatwave will persist through this week”, Environment Canada said.

The very high temperatures or humidity were expected to pose an elevated risk of heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said her office would normally receive about 130 death reports over a four-day period. At least 233 were reported from Friday to Monday afternoon, she said, adding that coroners are determining whether the record-breaking heat played a role.

King County medical examiner’s office, which covers an area that includes Seattle, said two people died of hyperthermia, meaning their bodies had became dangerously overheated.

In neighbouring Snohomish County, three men — aged 51, 75 and 77 — died after experiencing heatstroke in their homes, the medical examiner’s office told the Daily Herald in Everett, Washington, on Tuesday.

Officials in Bremerton, Washington, said heat may have contributed to four deaths.

The death of a worker at an Oregon plant nursery last weekend was heat related, employee safety agency Oregon OSHA said.

The man was from Guatemala and had apparently arrived in the US only a few months ago, said Andres Pablo Lucas, owner of Brother Farm Labour Contractor that sent the man and other workers to the nursery.

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The man, whose name was not released, died in sweltering temperatures on Saturday at Ernst Nursery and Farms, a wholesale supplier in St Paul, 20 miles north of the capital of Salem.

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