ASUNCION – At least 31 people have died in Paraguay because of the prevailing heat wave, health officials and police said on Tuesday.
Police reported the deaths of 17 people from complications apparently caused by the stifling heat, while the IPS public health network has registered a total of 14 deaths since last Friday.
The spokesman for the police, Capt. Oscar Larrosa, told Efe that although it is not certain “that all the sudden deaths were due to the heat, there has been an increase (in fatalities) in these days of high temperatures.”
It is summer in the Southern Hemisphere and temperatures in Asuncion last Sunday soared to 40 C (104 F) in the shade.
For his part, Ruben Aguilar, the IPS medical director, believed that high temperatures directly caused the deaths of 14 elderly patients in the emergency ward of the social security hospital.
“It was one of the worst weekends we have had at the hospital. Fourteen patients died, all of them over 60,” the doctor said, adding that “80 percent of those now admitted are more than 80 years old.”
Aguilar said on the radio that heat waves can cause dehydration and other feelings of sickness, especially among the elderly.
“Heat is one of the factors most affecting patients,” the official said.
The country’s heat wave has also hit the electric system, which is on the brink of collapse because of consumption skyrocketing to a point never seen before, according to authorities in the sector.
The Paraguayan Congress, currently in recess until next month, will meet this Thursday to debate making funds available to help the state-run electricity distributor deal with the crisis, in the midst of blackouts that have already impeded the distribution of drinking water. EFE