Nine hospitalized awaiting president

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

ST. CHARLES, Mo. -- Nine people were hospitalized Tuesday and others were treated at the scene after they were overcome by heat and high humidity while awaiting President Bush's visit to this St. Louis suburb.

Lines formed outside the Family Arena hours before the president's late-afternoon speech. Hundreds of supporters -- ranging from families with small children to senior citizens -- stood in a line snaking along shadeless pavement, with afternoon temperatures reaching into the 90s and extreme humidity.

The St. Charles Fire Department said it measured the arena parking lot's heat index at 111 degrees.

Nine people taken to hospitals in St. Charles and Lake St. Louis were treated for heat-related illness and released. Emergency workers treated others at the scene.

Fire department spokesman Capt. Scott Freitag said there was no way to shield people from the heat: "You end up with hordes of people and no way to provide shade."

Outside the arena, a fire department cooling station provided some relief with awnings, fans, water and soft drinks.

Freitag said the department might have been able to head off problems if it had known people would be standing in line so long.

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