Ns News Online Desk: Hundreds of sudden deaths, many of them suspected of being heat-related, have been reported during Canada’s record-breaking heatwave, officials say. Some 486 fatalities were recorded over the past five days in British Columbia alone, a 195% increase on the usual amount over that period.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has offered condolences to the victims, many of whom were elderly.
Abnormally high temperatures have been recorded across North America.
British Columbia Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said on Wednesday: “It is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather BC has experienced and continues to impact many parts of our province.”
She said many of those who died in the heatwave had lived alone in homes that were not ventilated.
Ms Lapointe added that the western province had only seen three heat-related deaths over the past three to five years.
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On Wednesday evening, the town of Lytton, British Columbia, was evacuated because of a wildfire – a day after it recorded Canada’s highest ever temperature of 49.6C (121.3F).
Mayor Jan Polderman told CBC News: “The whole town is on fire. It took like a whole 15 minutes from the first sign of smoke to all of a sudden there being fire everywhere.”The heat over western parts of Canada and the US has been caused by a dome of static high-pressure hot air stretching from California to the Arctic territories. Temperatures have been easing in coastal areas but there is not much respite for inland regions.
The weather system is now moving eastwards over the Prairie provinces – Alberta and Saskatchewan and parts of Manitoba have been placed under Environment Canada heat warnings.
Janice Houldsworth, who lives in the British Columbia community of Castlegar, told the BBC she had not ventured outdoors for four days. “I’ve never experienced anything like this in all my 70 years,” she said. “We have blackened out all the windows, have fans running 24/7 constantly spraying with mist, cold foot baths, and showers and [are] drinking tons of liquid.”