Canadians crowd into cooling centers as heat wave death toll doubles

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Vancouver (AFP)

Inside one of Vancouver’s 25 air-conditioned cooling centers on Wednesday, visitors quietly read books or work on laptops as the death toll in the Canadian province of British Columbia rises to hundreds following a record heat wave.

“We’ve had heat waves before, but not to this extent,” said Lou, who only provided her first name. “I am shocked at the number of deaths there has been.”

“I don’t have air conditioning, just a fan at home. I came here just to work where it’s cool.”

Canada’s westernmost province was scorched for days by record heat that reached 49.5 degrees Celsius (121 degrees Fahrenheit) in Lytton, three hours northeast of Vancouver on Tuesday, surpassing its own Canadian all-time record a day earlier.

The heat has killed dozens of residents, the toll increasing “hour by hour,” police said Tuesday, as meteorologists warned of more extreme temperatures to come.

Among those mourned was the mother-in-law of infectious disease expert Tara Moriarty, who said the otherwise healthy senior was afraid to seek respite from the heat as she was only halfway vaccinated for Covid-19.

“It’s pretty devastating,” Moriarty said on Twitter. “My partner’s healthy mother died of heatstroke in British Columbia (Sunday) overnight.

“Heat stroke can kill really quickly. If you have family, neighbors, friends who are afraid to look for cooler places (because of) Covid, check them every two (hours) when it’s really hot.”

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British Columbia’s coroners’ service reported 486 “sudden deaths” between Friday and Wednesday, up from 165 normally, while Vancouver police said calls for help were overwhelming emergency phone lines.

“While it is too early to say for sure how many of these deaths are heat-related, it is likely that the significant increase in reported deaths is attributable to the extreme weather conditions that BC has experienced and continues to experience. impact many areas of our province, “the coroner’s service said in a statement.

– ‘Alarming’ figures –

“We’ve never experienced anything like it in Vancouver,” said Police Sgt. Steve Addison, “and unfortunately dozens of people are dying of it.”

Vancouver first canceled schools due to extreme heat, as firefighters turned their hoses to anyone in need of cooling.

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“It was super hot in our house, we really had to rely on friends to give us fans,” said Ashley Vaughan, walking with her three children as the temperatures started to cool slightly on Wednesday. “My children were miserable; there was a lot of crying because it was so hot.”

Meteorologists have said the extreme weather conditions are the result of an extreme heat dome over the Pacific Northwest, a normal summer phenomenon – but never so hot or early.

“This particular event is very much in keeping with the science of climate change: more intense heat waves, of longer duration, more extreme heat, earlier in the season,” Terri Lang told AFP. , meteorologist at Environment Canada.

“People in the weather community – forecasters and climatologists – all hold our breaths looking at the numbers. They are alarming.”

Peter Lohuaro, 70, was forced to stop cycling due to the dangerously high concentration of ground-level ozone, prompting the public to stay indoors; but he said the heat wave also helped his joints.

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“It’s unprecedented, I’ve traveled to hot places like Death Valley (California) and it was hotter,” Lohuaro told AFP at a cooling center in the city.

“For people who live in apartments without air conditioning or facing south, many have had to rent hotel rooms or really suffer.”


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