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Oregon governor: death toll from north-west heatwave ‘unacceptable’

Oregon governor: death toll from north-west heatwave ‘unacceptable’

The intense heatwave which hit the US Pacific north-west and Canada over the last week has killed at least 95 people in Oregon alone, the state’s governor said on Sunday, calling the toll “absolutely unacceptable”.

Hundreds are believed to have died from the heat in the US north-west and south-western Canada. US temperature records included 116F (47C) in Portland and 108F (42C) in Seattle. On Sunday the hot weather was headed east, with temperatures well above 100F (38C) forecast for parts of Idaho and Montana.

Oregon officials warned people about the heat, dispersed water to vulnerable people and set up cooling stations, Brown said.

“We have been working to prepare for climate change in this state for a number of years,” the Democrat added. “What was unprecedented, of course, was the three days of record-breaking heat, and it was horrific to see over 90 Oregonians lose their lives.

“We have to continue with our preparedness work. That includes working with our health partners that provide healthcare to vulnerable Oregonians to make sure that they understand that there are resources available.

“We worked really hard with our community partners to get the message out that the heat was going to be very, very strong. Over last weekend, they set up cooling centers, provided water to vulnerable Oregonians. Unfortunately, we still lost too many lives.”

Scientists consider the heatwave consistent with the effects of human-caused climate change. Brown said her administration would review preparations for such new realities.

“I think the concern is that this is a harbinger of things to come,” she said. “We literally have had four emergency declarations in this state at the federal level since April of 2020. Over Labor Day last year, we had horrific wildfires. They were historic. We lost over a million acres, over 4,000 homes and nine lives.

“And what is really, really clear, just like we saw during the pandemic, throughout these emergency events our communities of color, our low-income families are disproportionately impacted. We have to center the voices of Black and brown and indigenous people at the forefront of our work as we do emergency preparedness.”

Asked what the federal government should be doing to help, Brown said: “In short, we need resources and we need boots on the ground.

“We need financial resources to be able to purchase critical, essential equipment like aircraft to help us fight fire … [and] to be able to train our national guardsmen and women ahead of time so they can support our firefighting efforts.

“But it also means that agencies like [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] who do not aid our undocumented families, we need to make sure that that happens.

“Of the families that lost homes in southern Oregon last Labor Day fire, several hundred were undocumented. Fema does not provide aid or assistance to these families.

“It is absolutely unacceptable. These families are so much a part of our communities. They’re the heart and soul of our culture and they are the backbone of our economy. They deserve the assistance and they need it.”


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