Heat waves kill. But selectively. If you’re relatively young, healthy and have access to a lake or air conditioning, heat is at worst an irritant. Immobile urban seniors living alone without air conditioning are at risk.
In August of 2003, a dreadful heat wave washed across Europe. Some 35,000 people died; most of them fit the above profile. A disproportion of the deaths — 14,000 —occurred in France, prompting investigation, which revealed the uncomfortable fact that it was not material poverty that was the key factor in many of these deaths. Rather it was a form of social poverty; the victims had nobody who cared enough about them to check up on them and alleviate their distress.
Worse, in a way, was the fact that many of the victims did have adult children, who could not be bothered to interrupt their traditional August holiday at the seashore to take responsibility for their parents’ needs (some even requested their parents’ funerals be postponed until their scheduled return). ….
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