Death Toll in Oregon Heat Wave Climbs to 116 as Officials Call It a 'Mass Casualty Event'

Temperatures in Oregon hit a record-breaking high of 116 degrees late last month

Pacific Northwest Heat Wave
Paramedics respond to a heat exposure call in Salem, Oregon. Photo: Nathan Howard/AP/Shutterstock

More than 100 people in Oregon have died as a result of the record-breaking heat wave that has blanketed the Pacific Northwest in recent weeks.

The Oregon Medical Examiner's Office reported the death toll at 116 people as of Wednesday from 10 different counties statewide, The Oregonian reported.

In Multnomah County, the most populated, five deaths were reported on Wednesday alone, bringing the county's total to 72 victims.

The number is steadily growing; last week, the medical examiner's office reported at least 63 deaths statewide, a number that jumped to 94 on Friday and 107 on Tuesday, according to The Oregonian.

The intense heat has shattered records in the area; temperatures on June 28 hit a record-high 116 degrees — the third day in a row that the record was broken, the National Weather Service said.

The heat wave reportedly began when a ridge of high pressure moved over the Pacific Northwest, forcing air down, compressing it and warming it before it became trapped in place in what is known as a "heat dome."

Pacific Northwest Heat Wave
People rest at a cooling station in Portland. KATHRYN ELSESSER/AFP via Getty

In a press release on Tuesday, Multnomah County officials called the incident a "mass casualty event."

"On June 28 alone, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner Program responded to four times the typical number of deaths, and did so in person in 116º F degree heat," the release said.

The suspected cause of death for victims in the county is hyperthermia, though as of Tuesday, only 40 of the 67 deaths have been formally ruled to be from hyperthermia, which is a very high body temperature.

The county said that it would look at state and federal interventions moving forward, and has already begun participating in statewide rule-making for the state Department of Environmental Quality's climate protection plan.

"The number of people and infrastructure harmed by this event is consistent with worst-case climate models for the Pacific Northwest and predict there is worse to come in the absence of aggressive global action to stop the use of fossil fuels," said John Wasiutynski, Multnomah County Sustainability Director.

Added Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Twitter: "We must do everything we can to be better prepared for these types of weather events by making sure vulnerable Oregonians are connected to information and available resources, and that all Oregonians are prepared for severe weather events."

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