The unprecedented extreme heat wave that western Canada has been experiencing for days has already claimed hundreds of lives, Canadian authorities have reported. The record-setting town of Lytton reached 49.6 degrees and had to be evacuated due to a fire.

Lisa Lapointe, the forensic director of the province of British Columbia, on Canada’s Pacific coast, said in a statement that in the last five days the number of sudden deaths has soared to 486, triple what is normal in these dates.

“We think that heat is very likely a factor in many of those deaths but it is something that has to be confirmed,” she said.

Lapointe added that the number is preliminary and that it is very likely that it will continue to increase in the coming days because most of the deceased were people who lived alone in houses with poor ventilation.

Meanwhile, the small town of Lytton, in the interior of British Columbia and where the record high of 49.6 degrees was reached on Tuesday, was evacuated on Wednesday night due to a wildfire out of control.

Lytton, a small town of about 250 people, became internationally famous on Sunday when the thermometer reached 47.9 degrees Celsius, breaking Canada’s previous record for maximum temperature, set at 45 in 1937. Lytton surpassed it on Monday and Tuesday its own record until it reached almost 50 degrees.

Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman told Canadian public broadcaster CBC that at 18:00 local time on Wednesday (01:00 GMT Thursday), he signed the evacuation order and ordered all residents to leave the town.

“The situation is difficult. The entire town is on fire. In just 15 minutes we went from having the first signs of smoke to suddenly being on fire,” added Polderman.

The phenomenon that is causing the extreme heat wave, called “heat dome”, which consists of a cluster of hot air in the upper layers of the atmosphere that can affect pressure and winds, has begun to move towards the east, to the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The Canadian Meteorological Service issued extreme heat advisories in neighboring Saskatchewan, warning that stifling hot conditions will persist all week and may persist the next.

 

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