US sizzles in record heat wave

The heat index is predicted to hit 112F (44C) in some areas

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Parts of the US are baking in record heat as nearly half a million people remain without power a week after severe storms.

The National Weather Service forecast "dangerously hot temperatures" this weekend in a dozen states from the Midwest to mid-Atlantic.

The heat index is predicted to hit 112F (44C) in some areas.

The sweltering weather has been blamed for 13 deaths so far, according to US officials.

Excessive heat warnings have been issued for Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

High temperatures have also hit parts of Canada, with temperatures on Friday breaking 11 daily records in Ontario.

Park deaths

Temperature records have been tumbling all week in the cities of Chicago, Minneapolis and St Louis.

In Washington DC, temperatures were above 95F for the ninth consecutive day for the first time since records began 141 years ago, the Washington Post reported.

The heat was expected to continue into Sunday, extending the streak for up to 11 days, the newspaper added.

"You know it'll be a warm day when you start out at 80F," Marcia Cronce, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told the Associated Press news agency.

crews set up to help visitors at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, after storms 5 July 2012 A command centre in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park helped visitors after the deadly storm

In parts of West Virginia, almost 230,000 people are still enduring power outages caused by storms that swept through the area one week ago.

About 71,000 and 45,000 people in Virginia and Maryland respectively were also waiting for electricity to be restored.

A number of cities have opened cooling centres and extended opening hours for public swimming pools.

Some communities are offering meals to residents whose food has spoiled after their refrigerators stopped working.

Officials in Chicago cancelled summer schools classes in 21 buildings without air conditioning because of the heat.

The heat in Chicago also buckled a road, cracking and bulging part of Columbus Drive by 5in (12cm).

Cooler weather is said to be on the way for northern parts of the Midwest, although strong storms could accompany the lower temperatures.

Storms in recent days in Michigan have brought power cuts to nearly 160,000 homes and businesses.

Two people died on Thursday evening as violent thunderstorms in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park felled trees.

A park spokeswoman said the victims were a 41-year-old man on a motorcycle who was hit by a falling branch and a woman struck by a toppling tree.

"There was a lot of rain, a lot of wind. A lot of people lost power," said Sandy Headrick, who lives in the small town of Townsend, just outside the park boundary.

"We had some friends who had a tree hit their home. They're all right, but the house is gone. It came through the roof and took out the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room."

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