Canadian troops prepared on Saturday to take part in a fight against fires that threaten to raise the toll of an unprecedented and deadly heat wave sweeping the west of the country and the United States.
According to the latest reports from local officials, some 177 fires broke out in the province of British Columbia on Saturday morning, 70% of them possibly caused by lightning.
This western province with a typically humid and temperate climate saw thermometers run a week ago and temperatures reached intolerable temperatures.
According to local health officials, at least 719 people have died since the start of this heat wave, more than three times the normal.
On the other side of the range, the northwest of the United States also found itself beneath this “heat dome,” a rare climate phenomenon, according to experts, exacerbated by global warming.
According to the latest official reports, at least 94 people have died in the US state of Oregon and about 20 in Washington state.
The combined effect of electric climate and drought causes fire outbreaks on both sides of the border to multiply and progress rapidly.
– 350 soldiers –
The small village of Lytton, some 250 km northeast of Vancouver, has become a symbol of this crisis: after breaking the historic record of 49.6 °C heat in Canada, it found itself in danger.
Its 250 residents were evacuated in an emergency, and the disaster eventually devastated 90% of its territory.
One of its residents, Jeff Chapman, explained to the English channel CBC that, helplessly, their parents die in the disaster when an electric pole collapses on their shelter.
Even as the mercury began to fall back on the coast, a heat wave spread from Canada to Ontario, and millions of people remained on heatwave alert on Saturday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday called on several ministers to provide central government aid to the affected provinces.
Specifically, Ottawa announced the opening of an operations center in Edmonton, western Canada, where 350 troops would stand ready to provide logistical support “across the region as needed”.
Noting the drought, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair anticipated a “long and hard summer” over the fires.
– Pyrocumulus –
In recent times, the situation has been worsened by the appearance of a rare phenomenon: pyrocumulus, storm clouds that form over a source of intense heat. Since these in turn generate electricity, they facilitate the construction of other braziers.
Thunderstorms in the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta generated more than 700,000 lightning between Wednesday and Thursday, as calculated by the Finnish company Vaisala, a specialist in environmental measures.
He said, “I can only emphasize that the risk of fire is high in almost all parts of British Columbia and I urge the British Columbians to listen carefully to the authorities and follow the instructions.” “
More than 500 lightning bolts were also recorded on Friday in California, where wildfires devoured more than 15,000 hectares, including a tourist area that welcomes many visitors for the July 4 National Day long weekend. was preparing to do.
Officials in California have ordered evacuations along Lake Shasta, an area popular with campers south of the Oregon border, and nearly 40 structures have been destroyed, including at least half a dozen homes near Lakehead.