BATTLING WILDFIRES

Heatwave claims four in Arizona

Below: A fire helicopter making a night drop while battling a blaze above Azusa, California, on Monday.
Below: A fire helicopter making a night drop while battling a blaze above Azusa, California, on Monday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Death and destruction as blazes rage in US west coast and Cyprus

LOS ANGELES • At least four people have died from a blistering heat that has gripped the western United States and sparked wildfires and evacuations across the region.

Three hikers and a mountain biker succumbed to the heatwave in Arizona on Sunday, when record- breaking temperatures were reported in some areas.

Mr Larry Subervi, spokesman for the Phoenix fire department, said one of the victims was an experienced 28-year-old female mountain biker who had embarked on a 21/2-hour ride with enough water but got overwhelmed by the heat.

The other three people reportedly died in the Tucson area. One was a 57-year-old man hiking with two of his fellow Germans on the Ventana Trail on Sunday. Police said one of the men made it down the trail to get help. The third man, a 33-year-old, was missing, according to the authorities on Monday.

The other victim was identified as a 54-year-old woman who went for a walk and was found dead after her husband reported her missing.

"We have a heatwave every year, but we are close to our all-time record in 1990 of (50 deg C)," Mr Subervi said.

The heatwave has fed wildfires in California, New Mexico and Arizona, forcing evacuations in some areas. Two fast-moving brush fires, one sparked by a fatal car crash, tore through 1,416ha in the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles on Monday, prompting some 600 households to be evacuated.

Officials said hundreds of firefighters were battling the flames, aided by water-dropping helicopters. Although a canyon separated the two fires, they feared the blazes could merge into a huge inferno.

Further north, in the Santa Barbara area of California, about 2,000 firefighters have been battling for days a fire that has already burned nearly 3,200ha and prompted the evacuation of 140 households.

In New Mexico, a fire south of Albuquerque has damaged two dozen homes and scorched nearly 7,000ha, officials said, while another fire caused by lightning near Cibola National Forest, in New Mexico, has eaten up more than twice that area.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Heatwave claims four in Arizona'. Print Edition | Subscribe