Canada heat wave: Extreme weather blamed, authorities monitoring wildfires

  • Oregon health officials said that more than 60 deaths have been linked to the heat, with the state’s largest county, Multnomah, blaming the weather for 45 deaths since temperatures spiked last Friday.
People flock to Bloedel Donovan park at Lake Whatcom in Bellingham, Wash., during an uncharacteristic Pacific Northwest heat wave.(AP)
People flock to Bloedel Donovan park at Lake Whatcom in Bellingham, Wash., during an uncharacteristic Pacific Northwest heat wave.(AP)
Published on Jul 01, 2021 06:46 AM IST
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By hindustantimes.com | Written by Susmita Pakrasi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

More than hundreds of deaths have been reported across the Pacific Northwest and Canada amid a devastating heat wave. The authorities said on Thursday that hundreds of deaths is likely caused by scorching temperatures that shattered all-time records in the normally temperate region.

British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said her office received reports of at least 486 “sudden and unexpected deaths” between Friday and Wednesday.

“While it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat related, it is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather,” LaPointe said in a statement, reports news agency AP.

Many homes in Vancouver don’t have air conditioning, leaving people ill-prepared for the rising temperature. "Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,” Vancouver police Sergeant Steve Addison said in a statement.

Oregon health officials said that more than 60 deaths have been linked to the heat, with the state’s largest county, Multnomah, blaming the weather for 45 deaths since temperatures spiked last Friday.

What caused the heat wave?

Meteorologists said that the heat wave was caused by a dome of high pressure over the Northwest and worsened by human-caused climate change, which is making such extreme weather events more intense.

Seattle, Portland and many other cities in the United States broke all-time heat records, with temperatures in some places reaching above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius). While the temperatures had cooled considerably in western Washington, Oregon and British Columbia by Wednesday, interior regions were still sweating through triple-digit temperatures as the weather system moved east into the intermountain West and the Plains.

Possibility of wildfires

Amid the dangerous heat and drought gripping the American West, crews were closely monitoring wildfires that can explode in the extreme weather.

Environment Canada said heat warnings were in place for parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana as well as Saskatchewan and southern Alberta, where “a prolonged, dangerous, and historic heat wave will persist through this week."

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “The temperatures recorded this week are unprecedented — lives have been lost and the risk of wildfires is at a dangerously high level."

Deaths caused by hyperthermia?

In Oregon, the Multnomah County medical examiner blamed 45 heat deaths on hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature caused by a failure of the body to deal with heat. The victims ranged in age from 44 to 97. The county that includes Portland said that between 2017 and 2019, there were only 12 hyperthermia deaths in all of Oregon.

“This was a true health crisis that has underscored how deadly an extreme heat wave can be, especially to otherwise vulnerable people,’’ Dr. Jennifer Vines, the county's health officer, said in a statement.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021