More than 100 deaths in the Pacific Northwest of North America may have been caused by hyperthermia, authorities in the U.S. states of Oregon and Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia said, as the region experienced record-shattering high temperatures this week.
Oregon officials said Wednesday that at least 63 people throughout the state — 45 of them in Multnomah County — died in connection to the high temperatures.
According to the county’s health officer, Multnomah County, which includes Portland, the state’s largest city, recorded only 12 deaths from hyperthermia between 2017 and 2019.
Portland and Seattle both recorded temperatures as high as 46 degrees Celsius since Friday.
In Vancouver, Canada, police said they had responded to at least 65 sudden deaths since Friday. Authorities across the region have warned that death tolls could rise as investigations continue into the causes.
On Sunday, Lytton, British Columbia, set Canada’s all-time high temperature, 46.6 degrees Celsius, only to see it broken less than 24 hours later, hitting 47.9 C Monday.
Though temperatures in larger coastal cities had cooled Wednesday, residents inland were seeing less of a decline.
The U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization said the extreme heat was caused by “an atmospheric blocking pattern,” which had led to a “heat dome” — a large area of high pressure trapped by low pressure on either side. The organization had said the temperatures would likely peak early this week on the coast and by the middle of the week in the interior of British Columbia. Afterward, the baking heat was expected to move east toward Alberta.
By late Wednesday afternoon, Vancouver, B.C., was at a much cooler 24 C.
As extreme temperatures have increased fears of wildfires this week, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that western U.S. states suffering from drought will receive more help from the federal government.
This article contains information from The Associated Press.