Brits among hundreds of tourists flocking to Death Valley despite deadly US heatwave

By John Mercury July 10, 2024

British people are among hundreds of tourists heading to Death Valley National Park in the US, despite a punishing heatwave bearing down on the desolate region.

English, French, Spanish and Swiss tourists headed to take photos of the barren landscape, known as one of the Earth’s hottest places, on Monday.

Officials in the park urged visitors to stay safe, with park superintendent Mike Reynolds warning “high heat like this can pose real threats to your health”.

Dozens of locations in the west and Pacific Northwest broke previous heat records over the weekend – and are expected to keep doing so during the week.

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A man walks through Badwater Basin. Pic: AP
Image:
A man walks through Badwater Basin. Pic: AP

Record daily high temperatures in Oregon are suspected to have caused at least four deaths in the Portland area.

More than 146 million people were under heat alerts on Monday across the US.

Temperatures aren’t expected to reach as high as they did during a similar heatwave in the Pacific Northwest in 2021, which killed an estimated 600 people across Oregon, Washington and western Canada.

Officials warned heat illness and injury are cumulative and can build over the course of a day or days.

In eastern California’s desert, a high of 53.3C was recorded at Death Valley National Park on Saturday and Sunday.

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An egg frying at the Furnace Creek Visitors Center in Death Valley National Park. Pic: AP
Image:
An egg frying at the Furnace Creek Visitors Center in Death Valley. Pic: AP

Too hot for medical helicopters to fly safely

A visitor who was not identified died there on Saturday from heat exposure and another person was hospitalised, officials said.

They were among six bikers riding through the Badwater Basin area in scorching weather, the park said in a statement. The other four were treated at the scene.

Emergency medical helicopters were unable to respond because the aircraft cannot generally fly safely over 48.8C, officials said.

One of the most extreme environments in the world

Death Valley is considered one of the most extreme environments in the world – the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 56.67C in July 1913 in the national park, though some experts dispute that measurement and say the real record was 54.4C, recorded there in July 2021.

It comes as the global temperature in June hit record levels for the 13th month in a row and marked the 12th month in a row the world was over the critical threshold of 1.5C of global warming, the European climate service Copernicus said.

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