Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

US swelters as 30 die in heatwave

Nia Bailey and Amari Swint cool off in Washington (AP)

Americans are dipping into the water, going to the cinema and taking tube trains just to have air conditioning relief from unrelenting heat that has killed at least 30 people across half the country.

The heat sent temperatures soaring over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in several cities, including a record 105F (40.5C) in Washington, St Louis (106F, 41C), and Indianapolis (104F, 40C), buckled highways and derailed a Washington-area train even as another round of summer storms threatened.

The heat sent temperatures soaring in more than 20 states to 105F (40.5C) in Louisville, Kentucky, 101F (38.5C) in Philadelphia, and 95F (35C) in New York; besides Washington, a record of 104F (40C) was set in Sioux Falls, South Dakota,

At least 30 deaths were blamed on the heat, including nine in Maryland and 10 in Chicago, mostly among the elderly.

Three elderly people found dead in their houses in Ohio had heart disease, but died amid high temperatures in homes lacking electricity because of recent power cuts, officials said. Heat was also cited as a factor in three deaths in Wisconsin, two in Tennessee and three in Pennsylvania.

Officials said the heat caused main roads to buckle in Illinois and Wisconsin. In Maryland, investigators said heat probably caused rails to bend and led a green line train to partially derail in Prince George's County, Maryland, on Friday afternoon. No one was injured, and 55 passengers were safely evacuated.

Thousands of mid-Atlantic residents are without power more than a week after summer storms and extreme heat struck the area, including 120,000 in West Virginia and some 37,000 in the Washington DC suburbs. In the Washington area, utility company Pepco asked customers to conserve power, saying the heat was putting stress on the system.

"This is becoming a black swan of heatwaves, in the sense that it's such a long heatwave, such a severe heatwave and encompassing such a large area," said Chris Vaccaro, spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In Manhattan, customers who stepped in to see Jiro Dreams Of Sushi at an IFC cinema were there for more than entertainment. "Of course we came to cool off!" said John Villanova, a writer who was on his second sweaty T-shirt of the day - expecting to change again by evening.

He said that earlier, he went on a Manhattan tube train back and forth for a half an hour, with no destination in mind, "because it really keeps you cool".

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