Dozens dead as heatwave grips Canada, US

OTTAWA (AFP) – At least 69 people in the Vancouver area have died in a record-smashing heatwave engulfing western Canada and the US Pacific Northwest, police said on Tuesday (June 29).

Most of the dead in the Vancouver suburbs of Burnaby and Surrey over the past 24 hours were elderly or people with underlying health conditions, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said.

“Although still under investigation, heat is believed to be a contributing factor in the majority of the deaths,” RCMP Corporal Michael Kalanj said in a statement.

Climate change is causing record-setting temperatures to become more frequent. Globally, the decade to 2019 was the hottest recorded, and the five hottest years have all occurred within the last five years.

The scorching heat stretching from Oregon to Canada’s Arctic territories has been blamed on a high-pressure ridge trapping warm air in the region.

On Monday, Canada set a new all-time high temperature record of 118 deg F (47.9 deg C) in Lytton in British Columbia, about 250km east of Vancouver.

Forecasters were expecting the record to go again on Tuesday, predicting 48.8 deg C heat in western Canada.

Temperatures in the US Pacific Northwest cities of Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington reached levels not seen since record-keeping began in the 1940s: 46.1 deg C in Portland and 42.2 deg C in Seattle, according to the National Weather Service.

Environment Canada has issued alerts for British Columbia, Alberta, and parts of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, saying the “prolonged, dangerous and historic heat wave will persist through this week.”

The US National Weather Service issued a similar warning, urging people to “stay in air-conditioned buildings, avoid strenuous outdoor activities, drink plenty of water, and check on family members/neighbours.”

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