SEATTLE — Each day, more deaths are linked to the heatwave that struck the Pacific Northwest this past week, with medical staff who treated people overwhelmed by temperatures well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) saying the toll from the extreme weather will keep creeping up.
The death toll in Oregon alone has reached at least 95, the state medical examiner said on Friday, with most occurring in Multnomah County, which encompasses Portland. The deaths include a Guatemalan immigrant who collapsed at a plant nursery in a rural Oregon town during the soaring heat.
In Canada, British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said Friday that 719 sudden and unexpected deaths have been reported in the province during the heatwave. That number over seven days is unprecedented. LaPointe said the number of fatalities is three times more than what would typically occur during the same period.
The intense temperatures are believed to be a significant contributing factor in the jump, but the number is expected to increase as more information is compiled, LaPointe said. Washington state authorities have linked about 30 deaths to the heat, with more reports coming in each day this week. “I think, over time, we will understand that the numbers are only going to climb,” said Dr. Steve Mitchell, director of Harborview Medical Center’s Emergency Medicine Department in Seattle. “I know, in my experience, that I’m expecting to see much larger numbers than what we are currently able to report because of talking to EMS colleagues who were experiencing twice as many calls for help that day.