Cold wave, house fires prove lethal for US homeless, poor

A record cold wave extending from the Upper Midwest through the Great Lakes and into New England contributed to numerous deaths across the United States Christmas week.

– Patrick Martin

Homeless people and the elderly were particularly at risk, but the greater stress imposed by severe weather has yet again laid bare the social crisis affecting all sections of the working class.

Deaths due to hypothermia (exposure to extreme cold) were reported in Chicago; Cincinnati, Ohio; Rapid City, South Dakota; and Ogden, Utah over the Christmas holiday period.

The victim in Chicago was a 62-year-old man, whose name has not been released, found unresponsive in his car the day after Christmas. His was the fourth death in Chicago attributed to exposure since the current cold season began in late October. The other victims were all men suffering from multiple health problems aggravated by alcoholism.

The man found dead Tuesday at a bus stop in downtown Cincinnati, 55-year-old Kenneth Martin, was homeless. In Rapid City, Alan Jack, aged 69, was found dead outdoors early Christmas morning. The 79-year-old woman, Verna Marriott, found dead the morning of December 23 in Ogden was suffering from dementia and had wandered from the home she shared with her daughter’s family in the middle of the night.

An even greater death toll comes from the rising number of house fires, frequently triggered by space heaters or other precarious methods of keeping warm in severe weather. These fires for the most part represent the intersection of the cold wave with the bad housing conditions endured by impoverished layers of the working class. …

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