Millions of people continue on Thursday under heat alerts in western Canada and the northwestern United States, where thermometers hit record highs and police have reported dozens of deaths likely related to hellish temperatures.
The heat wave has overwhelmed the emergency services: at least 134 people have died suddenly as of Friday in the Vancouver area and hundreds more in the province of British Columbia, according to Canadian police and the local forensic service.
“The temperatures recorded this week are unprecedented, lives have been lost and the risk of wildfires is dangerously high, “said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Washington State, in the northwestern United States, recorded at least 16 heat wave-related deaths, including two people who died of hyperthermia, local health officials said.
In Vancouver, hot spots. AFP photo
High temperatures in California’s valley, mountains, and desert areas triggered wildfire fears amid dry and windy weather conditions, with thunderstorms that could start fires in various areas of the western United States.
President Joe Biden said in a virtual meeting with governors of several western states that the threat of wildfires in that region was this year “bigger than ever”.
Biden recalled that last year’s wildfires devastated more than 4 million hectares across the country, a record figure, and caused “orange skies that looked like the end of days”, but warned that this year “could be even more difficult.”
Some federal officials say the fire season It is already exceeding in severity that of last year, the worst recorded in California, due to a severe drought.
Some 9,000 firefighters were deployed to fight fires in a dozen states in the United States, with a special focus on the Lava Fire, which has already devoured more than 7,000 hectares in Northern California.
The 250 inhabitants of the town of Lytton, about 250 kilometers east of Vancouver, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, they were forced to evacuate their homes after wildfires quickly spread Wednesday and threatened to overtake them.
“The whole town is on fire. Barely 15 minutes had passed since the first smoke signal and, suddenly, there was fire everywhere“Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman told Canadian CBC News.
The images showed the hills above Lytton engulfed in fire, encircling the town, as locals were rushing to safety of the great cloud of smoke.
Residents of another 241 homes from the area also received evacuation orders from regional authorities.
Lytton broke a Canadian high temperature record for the third day in a row on Tuesday, reaching 49.5 degrees Celsius, according to the meteorological service, Environment Canada.
“It is unbearable, it is impossible to be outside”Rosa, a resident of the metropolis accustomed to mild temperatures, told AFP. “I hope it doesn’t happen again, it’s too much.”
Environment Canada said the heat wave would abate in Lytton starting Wednesday, but that unusually high temperatures they will persist for the rest of the week.
Climate change is making record temperatures frequent. Globally, the decade to 2019 was the hottest on record, and the five hottest years have coincided with the last five years.
“We have been seeing these kinds of extreme weather events more and more in recent years. Realistically, We know this heat wave won’t be the last“Trudeau said.
The scorching heat that spreads to the Arctic territories of Canada has been attributed to a “heat dome” high pressure that traps hot air in the region.
British Columbia Prime Minister John Horgan, to which Vancouver belongs, said the “hottest week British Columbia people have experienced” was having “disastrous consequences for families and communities”.
The province’s Main Coroner’s Office stated in a statement that it recorded 486 deaths between Friday and Wednesday, against an average of 165.
Temperatures in the cities of Portland and Seattle, in the American Pacific Northwest, reached levels unprecedented since records began in the 1940s: 46 ° C in Portland and 42 ° C in Seattle on Monday.
Cities in the western United States and Canada opened emergency cooling centers and local workers distributed water bottles and hats to the population.