US & Canada

Power outages persist for 1.26m amid US heatwave

Utility workers try to free up power lines after a huge tree fell across major road in Falls Church, Virginia 2 July 2012
Image caption Power lines downed by large trees are the culprit in most outages

Some 1.26 million storm-struck households in the eastern US have spent a fourth day without electricity amid sweltering temperatures.

Fourteen heat-related deaths have been reported in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia as crews from as far as Quebec and Oklahoma battle to restore power.

Utility companies are warning that a number of places might still be without power on Friday.

Some Independence Day celebrations have been cancelled near Washington DC.

Traffic lights remain out in many areas of Maryland and Virginia, creating commuting headaches, and some residents report that downed power lines and fallen trees have not been removed.

Severe storms hit a 500 mile (800km) area on Friday, knocking out power in parts of US states from Indiana to Delaware.

Reports suggest more than 177,000 people are still without electricity in the Washington DC area.

The extreme weather, which continued over the weekend, has been blamed for more than 24 deaths in seven US states so far.

With so many households lacking functioning air conditioning or refrigerators, officials are urging residents to check up on elderly or sick neighbours.

High temperatures are expected around the US on Wednesday, including areas not affected by the storms, and could continue to the end of the week.

The National Weather Service has issued extreme heat warnings for parts of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Delaware and New Jersey with temperatures forecast to exceed 100F (38C).

While US Park Service officials said 4 July celebrations in Washington DC would continue as planned, some areas outside the US capital have cancelled fireworks, citing the need to deploy police and fire officials for recovery efforts.

The continued power outages have frustrated residents.

"This has happened time after time and year after year, and it seems as if they're always unprepared," John Murphy, a Burtonsville, Maryland resident, told the Associated Press news agency.

He was waiting on Monday for electricity firm Pepco to restore power to his house as well as his mother and sister's homes nearby.

Another power firm, BGE, said in a statement that crews were working 16-hour shifts on the clean-up and outage effort.

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