A heat wave that has reached highs near 50 degrees Celsius has claimed the lives of at least 233 people in the province of British Columbia, in western Canada, in the last four days. Most of the victims are older people who have suffered sudden deaths from the high temperatures, something that experts warn will continue to happen under current weather conditions.
Water sprinklers in parks and open spaces are taking center stage these days in Western Canada. Thousands of people are trying to fight a sudden heat wave, which has already left at least 233 deaths related to high temperatures in British Columbia.
“Since the onset of the heat wave late last week, forensic services have seen a significant increase in deaths suspected of being extreme heat,” said Lisa Lapointe, British Columbia’s chief medical examiner via of a statement.
A figure that is expected to continue increasing if extreme temperatures, intense humidity and weather conditions do not give up.
The west of the country has reached highs close to 50 degrees Celsius, a temperature never before recorded in Canada. Conditions that the residents of the cities in the area are not used to and that have caused numerous heat strokes in people of all ages.
Meanwhile, public services are trying to mitigate the effects of these extreme conditions and have reinforced their personnel to be able to serve the population. In the Vancouver case, the largest city in British Columbia, the police claimed to have answered more than 65 calls for sudden deaths since Friday, June 25.
Faced with this situation, the Vancouver unit announced that it is deploying dozens of extra patrols to respond to emergency calls due to the heat wave. He also recommended that citizens pay special attention and care to those family members and friends who may be especially vulnerable to heat.
“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this and unfortunately dozens of people are dying from it. Our officers are on the edge, but we are doing everything we can to keep people safe,” said the spokesman for the Vancouver Police. Vancouver, Sgt Steve Addison about it.
Several cities in the province have set up centers with air conditioning so that people can come to cool off, since the area is temperate in summer and most homes do not have this type of facilities. Schools in the region have closed and the vaccination campaign against Covid-19 has been affected.
From the public sphere, the message of prevention against this “prolonged, dangerous and historical” heat wave is clear: stay constantly hydrated, avoid activities in open spaces and approach public centers that have air conditioning.
Climate change and heat waves
The cause of this intense heat in Canada – which exceeds that of some areas of Dubai – is due to high static pressure, which in turn has caused a phenomenon known as “heat dome”. The longer this high pressure pattern lasts, the longer the heat wave will be, and the thermometers can keep rising day by day.
This Tuesday, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned that “extreme temperatures represent a great threat to the health of people, agriculture and the environment.” And they estimate that it will be an increasingly recurring phenomenon.
Although an isolated event cannot be related to climate change, experts currently argue that it causes periods of extreme temperatures to be more common and prolonged.
For example, with the heat wave in Europe of 2019, experts estimated that this had been 100 more likely due to the emissions of gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect.
In this case, the main cities of the Pacific Northwest of the United States have also been hit by the heat wave. Portland and Salem in Oregon, and Seattle in Washington again broke temperature records on Monday. In Salem, the state capital of Oregon, temperatures reached 47.2 degrees Celsius, the highest since records began in the 1890s.
In Idaho and Montana, the National Weather Service forecast more heat for the rest of this week.
Increase in fires with high temperatures
Because of the high temperatures, fires have increased in the North American region. This Tuesday, California, Oregon and Washington registered dozens of fires.
Siskiyou County, California, is the hardest hit with at least 5,400 hectares of forest ravaged by flames, according to the California Department of Fire Protection. Firefighters are trying to extinguish three “big fires” and a dozen other smaller fires, which have burned a total of 6,300 hectares across the state.
In Oregon, the Department of Forestry (ODF) reported a dozen active fires, prompting authorities to close several natural parks.
For its part, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources estimated “a difficult wildfire season after a worse-than-usual spring.”
A situation that could be extended to the neighboring country. In the case of British Columbia in Canada, bordering the state of Washington, experts warn of the great risk of forest fires, due to the accelerated rate at which forests are drying up with the heat wave.
With EFE and Reuters