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Scores More Heat Deaths From Chicago Eastward

July 17, 1995 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ Police vans filled with the dead kept rolling up to the morgue on Sunday as another 56 victims were added to the grisly toll five days of 90-plus-degree heat has taken on the people of this city.

``The true scope of this problem has not yet been accounted for,″ said Cook County medical examiner Edmund Donoghue. ``We feel confident that (the death toll is) going above 200 and could reach 300.″

The 56 deaths, coming atop 62 logged in the city since Wednesday, pushed the national toll from heat and storms to at least 204, including an 80-year-old Pennsylvania man who’d been out sealing his tar driveway in 94-degree heat.

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Among Chicago’s dead were a 75-year-old woman and her 65-year-old husband, found dead in their 120-degree bedroom Friday with a ceiling fan whirring overhead.

``We wondered why they were in the bedroom and not in the basement where it’s cool, but they couldn’t walk down there,″ neighbor Danyel Gooch said.

Elsewhere, lighting struck and killed a newly-married man and his brother in McDonald, Ohio, as they played horseshoes at the wedding reception on Saturday, Police Chief Jim Tyree said.

The nation’s deadly tally topped the count in 1987, when at least 96 deaths from the Plains to the East Coast were blamed on heat, but didn’t approach the 1980 heat wave that killed an estimated 15,000 Americans.

Though it hatched storms, the cool air was rushing in. It warmed to 92 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, compared to Saturday’s record of 102. Boston enjoyed a high of 78, down sharply from Friday’s 100, the hottest it’s been since 1977.

In Philadelphia, autopsies performed Sunday revealed that heat contributed to the death of 15 people, said Jeff Moran, a spokesman for the city Health Department. The city’s first two heat-related deaths were reported Saturday. The high in much of Pennsylvania was about 91 degrees, some 10 degrees cooler than Saturday.

In New York City, 11 people died of heat-related causes in the 24 hours ending at 8 a.m. Sunday, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner.

Temperatures that hit a grueling 102 degrees Saturday, breaking the old record of 98 set in 1983, meant a record 4,607 calls to New York City’s Emergency Medical Service, spokesman David Bookstaver said.

In Chicago, Mayor Richard M. Daley urged people to check on their elderly friends and to cool off at such spots as air-conditioned libraries and city beaches.

Chicago’s latest death count was announced after 94 autopsies were performed on Sunday.

``It’s a disaster,″ medical examiner spokesman Mike Boehmer said. ``On a normal day we get 17 bodies, but it can go up into the thirties on a very hot day.″

Most of the Chicago victims were elderly, and scattered power outages caused by heavy demand knocked out fans and air conditioning, compounding the problem. It hit 93 Sunday for Chicago’s fifth consecutive day above 90. Saturday’s high was 98 and the all-time record of 106 was set Thursday.

Two of Chicago’s dead were sisters in their 70s, found lying together in bed. An air-conditioner whirring at the front of the house hadn’t sent enough cool air to the bedroom.

``One officer came out of the house and said, `Oh, my God, it must be 200 degrees in there,″ neighbor Santa Garcia said.

As police vans filled with the dead rolled in, the morgue’s 222 galleys were filled and other bodies lay on wooden shelves. Seven refrigerated trucks, which hold 30 bodies each, had been brought in Saturday. The medical examiner’s office handles all accidental deaths, homicides and unclaimed bodies.

The morgue employs 114 people, and many were working overtime.

``Some have been here on duty since Friday night,″ said Boehmer. ``There are 14 pathologists. All of them are here today.″