Mexico Heat Wave Claims at Least 125 Lives

June 21, 2024 by No Comments

As the relentless heat wave gripping Mexico intensifies, nursing homes like the Cogra facility in Veracruz are struggling to provide relief for their elderly residents. Staff members are forced to rotate residents between limited cooling options, such as fans and air conditioning units, in a desperate attempt to combat the stifling temperatures.

“We have never before experienced a heat wave this intense, this powerful, this pervasive and this persistent,” said María Teresa Mendoza, director of the Cogra nursing home, which has been operating for decades in the port of Veracruz. “This heat wave has killed many people here in Veracruz.”

According to data from Mexico’s health ministry, at least 125 people nationwide have succumbed to the heat this year, with over 2,300 more suffering from heat stroke, dehydration, and sunburns. The heatwave has tragically highlighted the disproportionate impact of climate change and rising global temperatures on some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Veracruz has been particularly hard hit, accounting for nearly a third of the heat-related deaths. Temperatures have soared to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the humid gulf state, leaving caregivers like Mendoza scrambling to alleviate the suffering of their patients. On Sunday, Mendoza stood before a group of elderly women in rocking chairs, their heads drooping under the oppressive heat, only marginally relieved by the whirring fans. “We’re going to drink a bit of water. Sounds good?” she asked. “Those are my girls.”

The heatwave’s impact extends beyond human suffering. Howler monkeys and tropical birds have been found dead in southern Mexico. Residents are anxiously filling up water jugs, concerned about the compounding effect of the heat on the ongoing drought. Migrants trekking northward face the scorching sun with little respite.

Emergency services in Veracruz have witnessed a surge in heat-related emergencies, particularly in areas like warehouses and open spaces. David Zebadúa Escalante, coordinator of state relief for the Mexican Red Cross in Veracruz, reported that medics respond to as many as five heat strokes a day. In response, ambulance crews have been equipped with ice packs, cold liquids, and cold compresses to treat heat stroke victims.

“We had to take certain measures in the ambulances, like putting ice packs inside, cold liquids, cold compresses so we could treat people who have had heat stroke,” he said.

Zebadúa Escalante emphasized that medics often encounter individuals who work long hours in the sun, with limited breaks and inadequate hydration, making them highly susceptible to heat stroke.

Despite the extreme heat, construction workers like Jorge Misael Rodríguez continue to toil under the relentless sun. Drenched in sweat, Rodríguez carries heavy equipment, bricks, and planks on the construction site. “You feel feverish, feel pain, and get tons of headaches. Once you’re at home, the pain starts. In your shoulders, back and arms,” Rodríguez said, taking a gulp of water during a break. “It hits you hard.”