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The death toll in Texas is steadily growing as the region begins to recover from an unprecedented winter storm and freezing temperatures that left millions of people without heat, water, or power this week.
One Southeastern county in the state has reported at least 10 hypothermia deaths and more than 600 carbon monoxide cases already, with those numbers expected to rise, according to a tweet by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
“This is a man-made disaster that has cut lives short,” Hidalgo wrote. “When the dust settles, people deserve answers and accountability.”
This was a man-made disaster that has cut lives short. We are now reporting 10 hypothermia deaths in Harris County, 600+ carbon monoxide cases, and still counting. When the dust settles, people deserve answers and accountability.
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) February 19, 2021
Insider reached out to Hidalgo’s office for comment but had not heard back at the time of publication.
Hidalgo’s update follows reports by local media on those who have died from the storm and accompanying frigid temperatures.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Harris County announced four hypothermia deaths on Thursday, including two people who died in their Houston homes and one man found in a parking lot.
The fourth man was Carrol Anderson, a 75-year-old Vietnam War veteran who found himself out of oxygen for his oxygen machine earlier this week and had to face the frigid temperatures outside in search of a small portable tank he kept in his truck, according to the Chronicle.
Anderson died in his truck Tuesday in 19-degree Fahrenheit weather, the outlet said.
“He shouldn’t have had to die because he couldn’t breathe because we didn’t have power,” Gloria Anderson, Carrol’s wife of 30 years, told the newspaper.
As the Houston area began to warm up later in the week, the storm’s toll started to become clear. The Chronicle confirmed Friday afternoon that at least 10 people in Harris county have died of hypothermia this week, with some officials suggesting the death toll is much higher in reality.
On top of the deaths in Harris County, nearby Galveston and Brazoria Counties have also reported numerous deaths, bringing the total deaths in the Houston area to 30 on Friday, according to the Chronicle.
Temperatures are expected to climb into the mid-forties on Friday and continue warming through the weekend, but the damage left behind by the freezing temperatures in the region has been unusually bad.
Medical experts told the Chronicle that indoor hypothermia deaths are extremely rare. The number of people in the area who died from hypothermia in their own homes this week highlights how the frigid weather combined with the massive power outages led to unprecedented tragedy.
Also struggling in the hard-hit county are incarcerated people in Houston’s Harris County Jail. Inmates told the Texas Observer that temperatures inside the jail were around 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the past few days.
One inmate, Arthur White, told the outlet that the toilets have been clogged for three days, and the jail has no running water or hand sanitizer.
Carrol Anderson’s widow, Gloria, told the Chronicle that her husband’s death could have been avoided if the power outages hadn’t forced him outside in search of an oxygen tank.
“I mean we are not spring chickens but there was no reason for this,” she told the paper.
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