California death toll stands at 105 as temperatures soar

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The Independent US

California is baking in a heat wave that has so far caused 105 deaths.Coroner's officers were working overtime to deal with the bodies, aid workers were going door-to-door to check on the elderly across the state and hospitals were overwhelmed with people suffering heat-related illnesses.

In Fresno County's morgue, the walk-in freezer was stuffed with bodies, with some piled on top of others, said the coroner, Loralee Cervantes. Deputy coroners and technicians were working in rooms with the temperature reaching 90F (32C). "They're working until they can't bear it any more," said Ms Cervantes. "I've never seen anything like this before."

As the temperature reached 119F in Los Angeles, power cuts triggered by air conditioners operating constantly plunged many areas into darkness. Inthe beach city of Santa Monica, some restaurants and bars were without power for three days.

Cinemas and shopping malls have been packed with people trying to escape the heat because, even in Los Angeles, less than half of the homes have air conditioning. Many people were camping out in their gardens or in parks while some were spending the night in their cars with the air conditioning running.

More than 25,000 cattle and 700,000 fowl have died in the Californian agricultural region where the temperature has not dropped below 100F for two weeks.

"The timing is horrendous," said Andy Zylstra, president of the California Dairy Campaign. "The price of milk is down 30 per cent while feed, fuel and electricity prices are all up and now we have these tremendous losses. It's just a kick in the head."

Relief is in sight, however, as forecasters have predicted that temperatures will slowly decline over the next few days.