California heat deaths top 50

July 26, 2006 at 8:30 AM
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SACRAMENTO, July 26 (UPI) -- California's lengthy period of high temperatures has caused an estimated 53 to 57 heat-related deaths, a survey of coroners has found.

The heat wave, which featured temperatures in excess of 100 degrees in some areas, has lasted for more than two weeks, taking a heavy toll on the elderly and transients without access to shelter, The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

The number of heat-related deaths, estimated to exceed 50 as of Tuesday night, could take up to four weeks to confirm as autopsies are performed, the Times said.

"They become dehydrated," Imperial County (Calif.) Deputy Coroner Henry Proo told the Times. "When you start talking about old people, their bodies can't function at the level they need to be. Four of them were outside when they shouldn't have been. Because of their age, their body quits on them."

Although Los Angeles and Orange counties had not reported any heat-related deaths as of Tuesday evening, Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County's public health director, said the high temperatures were likely a factor in many heart, lung and diabetes related deaths over the past two weeks.

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