(Reuters) - The governor of Missouri on Monday declared a state of emergency due to the drought and prolonged severe heat of this summer, which has so far been blamed in the deaths of 25 people in the state.
"The high temperatures and dry conditions across the state are taking their toll on Missourians," Governor Jay Nixon said in a statement. "Our farmers are suffering tremendous losses in crops and livestock, and we're seeing more heat-related deaths and emergency room visits, particularly among seniors."
The declaration activates the State Emergency Operations Plan, which authorizes state agencies to help local jurisdictions with their emergency responses.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has confirmed 25 heat-related deaths in the state, including 20 in the St. Louis area. The department also has received hospital reports of 829 heat-related emergency department visits from May 1 through July 22. The weather is also causing a high risk of fire, according to the governor's office.
The most expansive drought in the United States in more than half a century has hurt corn and soybean crops.
The temperature in St. Louis was 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Through July 21, this year has been the warmest start to a calendar year on record in St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri, the NWS said.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared all 114 Missouri counties as primary natural disaster areas, clearing the way for affected farmers to receive federal assistance through low-interest loans, according to Nixon spokesman Scott Holste.
(Reporting By Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Eric Beech)