A crippling heat wave that has held large swathes of the United States hostage gave way slightly on Sunday -- but not before leaving dozens dead in several states, AFP reports citing officials and local media.
After days of sweltering highs around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) in the central and eastern parts of the country, forecasters said that cooler air was slowly swooping south from Canada.
"Temperatures will drop, bringing some much needed relief," the National Weather Service said.
The relentless heat sparked health warnings and sent people to makeshift cooling shelters, shopping malls and overcrowded swimming pools to cool off.
But the oven-like temperatures took their toll all the same, with the elderly and infirm especially vulnerable.
The eastern state of Maryland has recorded at least 13 heat-related deaths since June 8, with 11 of the victims aged over 65, Ed McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, told AFP.
"We are hoping that this is it," he said in reference to the extreme weather.
In Ohio, three seniors with heart problems perished due to the heat after a fierce band of firestorms tore across several states on June 29, leaving them and millions of others without much-needed air conditioning after power cuts.
"I can confirm three heat-related deaths," Tamara McBride of Ohio's Emergency Management Agency told AFP. "However, there may be more."
In Chicago, where temperatures sank Sunday to more comfortable levels, the number of confirmed deaths linked to the record-setting weather soared to 18, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Officials in Illinois could not immediately confirm the figure.
In Indiana, meanwhile, an infant died after being left in a stiflingly hot car, according to the indystar.com website.
Deaths related to the stifling temperatures and heat-fueled storms were also reported in Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, local media said.