Three deaths blamed on heat in St. Louis, more in Illinois

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis officials on Monday blamed the deaths of three elderly residents on the heat wave that has settled over the region for two weeks, and Midwesterners braced for even hotter weather over the next few days.

Mayor Francis Slay's office did not release names of the victims. An 81-year-old man was found Thursday in his home that had no air conditioning or fans. A 73-year-old woman died Friday even though the air conditioner in her home was running. And an 88-year-old man, also found Friday, had an air conditioner but wasn't using it.

The deaths came despite an informational campaign that included more than 11,000 automated calls to give people at high risk information on how to cope with the heat. The city has also installed nearly 200 air conditioners and donated 125 fans since the heat wave began.

State health officials said a fourth death in Missouri was believed to be due to the heat -- a 47-year-old Jackson County man.

Three heat-related deaths have also been reported on the Illinois side of the St. Louis area. A 57-year-old Prairietown man and a 53-year-old Alton man were found dead Thursday in their homes, each without air conditioning.

Also last week, in East St. Louis, Ill., 87-year-old James Erby was found dead in a bed in his home, which also lacked air conditioning.

Health experts say the elderly and chronically ill are most at risk during extremely hot weather.

Steve Nonn, the coroner in Madison County, Ill., said the deaths illustrate the importance of checking on the welfare of neighbors, especially the vulnerable elderly.

"This is a time of year when it is important to be a busybody, knock on a door and ask, 'Are you OK?"' Noon said. "It is an act of nosiness that just may save someone's life."

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