May 17, 2022

More than 60 people have died in Oregon as the heatwave continues to rage across the Pacific Northwest. As of Wednesday, the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office reported that 63 people had died in the state, according to a news statement received by PEOPLE.

According to a press release, 45 individuals have died in Multnomah County, which includes Portland. Between 2017 and 2019, the figure was nearly four times what was recorded in Oregon. At the time, only 12 deaths were attributed to hyperthermia. Officials stated that hyperthermia was the preliminary cause of death for the 45 victims.

Additionally, nine people died in Marion County, five in Washington County, two in Clackamas County, and one in Columbia and Umatilla counties, according to the news announcement.

Hyperthermia is defined as “an excessively high body temperature caused by the body’s inability to deal with external heat,” according to the news release.

According to officials, those killed ranged in age from 44 to 97 years and comprised 17 women and 27 men, many of whom had pre-existing medical issues. Numerous people were discovered “alone, without access to air conditioning or a fan.”

“This was a true health crisis that has underscored how deadly an extreme heatwave can be, especially to otherwise vulnerable people,” Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Health Officer, said in a statement. “I know many county residents were looking out for each other and am deeply saddened by this initial death toll. As our summers continue to get warmer, I suspect we will face this kind of event again.”

Along with the deaths, Multnomah County reported receiving 491 calls to 911 for medical issues, a 63 percent higher than average.

Additionally, the county saw 131 emergency department and urgent care clinic visits for heat illness between June 25, when the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning, and June 28. Officials stated, “normally we would see one” to stress the data.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive heat kills more than 700 individuals in the United States on average each year.