July 20, 1995 in Nation/World

Officials Launch Accusations For Heat-Related Deaths

From Staff And Wire Reports

Like the grisly toll from some distant war zone, the number of dead from last week’s murderous heat wave here climbed to 436 Wednesday - and the medical examiner is not finished counting.

But while the weather has cooled, the debate about why so many died has inflamed this city’s usually combustible politics, with Mayor Richard M. Daley and other officials trading angry allegations over who is to blame for not doing enough to save the poor, the infirm and the aged from the consequences of Chicago’s most crippling seige of summer heat in memory. Weather and politics are frequent partners in this city. In 1979, Michael Bilandic, a veteran Chicago pol, was turned out by voters who were convinced he had not done enough enough to dig the city of a snowstorm, an act of God to which Chicagoans are more accustomed. Now, critics like John Steele, an alderman from Chicago’s South Side, where many of the heat victims perished, are arguing that the Daley administration mishandled the heat wave by not implementing fast enough the city’s “skimpy” heat emergency plan.

“Overall, the city administration dropped the ball,” Steele said. “I’m looking for a lot of answers, the whole city is.”

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