Four, including German national, die in US heatwave
21 June 2016, 14:21
Los Angeles – At least four people, including a
German man, have died from the blistering heat that has gripped the western
United States and sparked wildfires and evacuations across the region,
authorities said on Monday.
Three hikers and a mountain biker succumbed to the
heatwave in Arizona on Sunday, where record-breaking temperatures were reported
in some areas.
Larry Subervi, spokesperson for the Phoenix fire
department, said one of the victims was an experienced 28-year-old female
mountain biker who had embarked on a two-and-a-half-hour ride in the Phoenix
area with enough water but got overwhelmed by the heat.
Three other people reportedly died in the Tucson
area, including a 57-year-old German national – identified as Stefan Guenster –
who was hiking with two other fellow Germans on the Ventana Trail early on
The Pima County Sheriff's Department, located in
Tucson, said one of the men was able to make it down the trail to get help.
Rescuers found Guenster dead near the trail and the
third man, identified as 33-year-old Marcus Turowski, is still missing.
The other victim was identified as a 54-year-old
woman who went for a walk along a path known as The Loop and was found dead after
her husband reported her missing.
"We have a heatwave every year, but we are
close to our all-time record in 1990 of 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50
Celsius)," Subervi told AFP.
He said temperatures on Sunday had soared to 120
degrees and the crushing heat continued on Monday, setting records in many
areas of Arizona and southern California. Temperatures were expected to ease
The heatwave has fed wildfires in California, New
Mexico and Arizona, forcing evacuations in some areas.
Two fast-moving brush fires tore through 3 500
acres (1 416 hectares) in the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles on
Monday, prompting some 600 households to be evacuated, officials said.
'Steep terrain, heavy vegetation'
Fire officials said hundreds of firefighters were
battling the flames in the foothills above Azusa and Duarte, aided by
"The fire is burning in very, very steep
terrain with very heavy vegetation," said Robert Garcia, the fire chief at
Angeles National Forest, referring to the initial blaze – dubbed the Reservoir
Fire – north of Azusa.
He said that fire was sparked by a fatal car crash.
The second blaze – dubbed the Fish Fire – erupted
about four miles away in Duarte and quickly roared into the foothills,
triggering evacuations and threatening some homes before moving in a different
Fire officials said residents of nearby communities
should be ready to evacuate in case the flames gain ground during the evening.
"There are a lot of open flanks of the fire
that tonight, if we get [winds], we could have more evacuations," said
John Tripp, deputy chief of the Los Angeles County fire department.
Fire officials said a canyon separated the two
fires but there were fears they could merge into a huge inferno.
Further north, in the Santa Barbara area of
California, some 2 000 firefighters for several days have been battling the
so-called Sherpa fire that has already burned nearly 8 000 acres (3 200
hectares) and prompted the evacuation of 140 households.
In New Mexico, the Dog Head fire about 30 miles (48km)
south of Albuquerque has also damaged two dozen homes and scorched nearly 18 000
acres, officials said.
They said that as of Monday, only nine percent of
the fire had been contained.
Another fire caused by lightning near Cibola
National Forest, in New Mexico, has eaten up more than 36 000 acres and was 30%
The fire, which started on May 21, was expected to
be contained by late July.