700 dead and counting: Canada struggles to cope with unprecedented heatwave

The escalating crisis sent Canadian PM Justin Trudeau into an emergency huddle with the country’s incident response group as they discussed ways to combat it, focusing on British Columbia
A motorist on the Trans-Canada Highway as a wildfire burns on the side of a mountain in Lytton, British Columbia. (AP)
A motorist on the Trans-Canada Highway as a wildfire burns on the side of a mountain in Lytton, British Columbia. (AP)
Published on Jul 03, 2021 11:35 AM IST
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ByAnirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Nadim Siraj

The unprecedented heatwave baking the Pacific Northwest has claimed as many as 700 lives over the last one week in Canada alone, according to officials, while two people were reported to have died due to a raging wildfire triggered by the heat in the village of Lytton in British Columbia, which had sizzled under a record high temperature of 49.6°C earlier in the week.

It has been reported that one of more than a hundred wildfires currently peppering the heatwave-hit western part of Canada, especially British Columbia (BC), has decimated about 90% of Lytton.

The escalating crisis sent Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau into an emergency huddle with the country’s incident response group as they discussed ways to combat it, focusing on British Columbia.

Due to the challenging conditions in and around Lytton due to the wildfire, investigators have been unable to confirm the two fatalities in the village.

After Lytton witnessed three days of record temperatures from Sunday to Tuesday, its residents were evacuated on Wednesday, with nearly 1,000 inhabitants in and around the area being moved to safety.

The BC Wildfire Service classified the wildfire situation as “out of control” and estimated it covered an area of around 6,400 hectares.

BC chief coroner Lisa Lapointe told reporters that 719 sudden deaths were recorded in the province in the week ending July 1 – which is three times higher than the average tally.

“We are releasing this information as it is believed likely the extreme weather that BC has experienced in the past week is a significant contributing factor to the increased number of deaths,” Lapointe said.

“This number is preliminary and subject to increase as additional reported deaths are entered into our system,” she added.

On June 30, the estimate for a five-day period was 486 deaths.

The BC Wildfire Service said there were 136 ongoing wildfires in the province with nine of them being considered of note since they posed a danger to public safety.

As Trudeau held a meeting with the emergency task force, air support along with personnel were also readied in the city of Edmonton in the province of Alberta for support and possible evacuation of those impacted by the wildfires.

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