Southeast Heat Wave Blamed for Deaths, Fires

The American South sizzled beneath a relentless sun for a sixth straight day. Officials in Memphis said two more people had died of the heat, raising the city's death toll to seven in a little more than a week.

Much of the Southeast was under a heat advisory as temperatures topped 100 degrees (38 Celsius) for the 10th consecutive day in places, fueling brush fires and increasing the number of people seeking medical help. The high of 105 (40.6 Celsius) in St. Louis broke a 71-year-old record.

It was just as hot in Memphis on Wednesday. Hospital workers passed out free bottles of water to thousands of Elvis Presley fans who filled Graceland's tourism complex Wednesday to mark the 30th anniversary of his death.

One fan, a 67-year-old woman from New Jersey, was found dead inside a tent at a campground near Graceland. She had chronic health problems, but the medical examiner's office said heat was an element in her death.

Temperatures in Memphis were forecast to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) at least through Friday, according to the National Weather Service. A 32-year-old man was found dead outside his apartment, which had no air conditioning, officials said.

"Unfortunately, many of these deaths have been in areas that are considered unsafe, poorer areas of town where people don't have air conditioning, but they're too afraid to open their windows," Shelby County Medical Examiner Karen E. Chancellor said.

Also Wednesday, a man died of what appeared to be heatstroke while preparing for a county fair east of Nashville.

In St. Louis, two more heat-related deaths brought the city's heat wave toll to five, and Mayor Francis Slay urged citizens to check on relatives, friends and neighbors to ensure their safety.

In Alabama, State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson said the heat wave is the worst in the state since 1980, when temperature soared for weeks, killing 125 people.

This year's temperatures are similar, but the death count is down dramatically, Wilson said. So far only one death in the state has been described as "possibly heat related."