Scammers and price gougers are making the most of the deadly heatwave gripping much of the Pacific Northwest, selling used window air conditioners worth around $250 for $2,000 and hawking tiny desk fans for upwards of $200. In British Columbia, Canada, where more than 230 people have died from heat-related illnesses since Friday, air-conditioned hotel rooms are going for up to three times the normal rate. And sweltering residents can’t book them fast enough.
Temperatures in British Columbia, Washington State, and Oregon have hit record highs with temps reaching 115 degrees in areas where fans and air conditioning are rare. In Vancouver, wealthy Canadians and Chinese expats have hastily installed central air conditioning to try to combat the heat. Canadian Tire, Home Depot, and other distributors say they have sold out of units all across the province.
Facebook Marketplace issued a warning on some of its online salesrooms, warning that anyone selling items to beat the heat for more than their value will be banned from the service, but the over-priced fans and air conditioners are selling out fast, even at inflated prices.
The heatwave, which is expected to peak Wednesday before more reasonable temperatures return, has sent more than 1,100 people to hospitals in Washington State and Oregon where people are filling up movie theaters and shopping malls and anywhere with air-conditioning.
In Vancouver, British Columbia Coroners Service reports what they call a “significant” number of sudden deaths related to the extreme conditions. People are finding elderly relatives dead in their homes, according to Sergeant Steve Addison who told the Vancouver Sun his department is receiving calls for sudden deaths at an alarming rate “as people are showing up in their parents’ house or relatives’ house and finding them deceased.”
King County Seattle health officer Jeff Duchin blamed climate change for the deadly temperatures. “Climate change is a health emergency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is literally a matter of life and death,” he said in a statement.
The stifling heat has also bucketed the northeastern United States, turning normally mild locales into infernos. In Philadelphia, where air conditioning is also rare, Hunting Park Neighborhood Advisory Committee has started a crowdfunding drive to buy air conditioners and fans for impoverished residents.
“We have never seen anything like this,” Vince Hlavaty, a medical officer in Washington State told USA Today. “I hate to use the word unprecedented but that’s absolutely what this is.”