Heatwaves and fires: the American and Canadian West is suffocating

Several hundred sudden deaths, hospitalizations and increased wildfires: Western Canada and the United States are suffocating under the effects of unbearable temperatures.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed US President Joe Biden on Wednesday, saying: “The temperatures recorded this week are unprecedented. There have been deaths and the risk of wildfires is at an alarmingly high level.”

“People are suffering, kids can’t play outside, streets are creaking”, Biden said exclusively on the sidelines of an interview with Democratic and Republican governors, identifying 36 fires currently active in Pacific Coast states. .

The northwestern United States, which is accustomed to temperate and generally humid weather, has hit a record low in recent days, with Portland hitting a maximum of 46.1 degrees Celsius on Monday. There was some respite in the port city on Wednesday, as the heat wave slowly moved inland.

Across the border, Canada also had several fires on Wednesday, including one near the village of Lytton, British Columbia, about 250 km northeast of Vancouver: this is where, on Tuesday, a new all-time high for the entire country was set. 49.6 °C was recorded.

The “historic heatwave continues to break records” and is expected to last through the end of the week, the Canadian Meteorological Services wrote, listing a long list of never-before-seen temperatures in Canada, sometimes as high as the 19th. Breaks the records set in the century.

– “Unbelievable” –

Thermometer panic has claimed victims. At least 486 people have died suddenly in British Columbia since Friday, nearly three times the average for the period, officials said.

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“While it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat-related, it is likely that this major cause of mortality is due to extreme weather,” said Lisa LaPointe, forensics manager for this Canadian state. Deterioration of balance sheet.

“It’s unbearable, it’s impossible to be outside,” commented Rosa, a resident of metropolitan Vancouver, accustomed to moderate temperatures. “I hope it never happens again, that’s too much,” she told AFP.

In the neighboring US city of Seattle, emergency physicians have also noted an influx of people affected by the heat, including kidney or heart problems. At least sixteen people have died of hyperthermia in the area, according to the local Seattle Times newspaper.

An air-conditioned center during a heat wave in Vancouver, Canada June 30, 2021 (AFP – Don McKinnon)

Authorities in both countries have called on the population to minimize their walks, drink too much alcohol and screen the lonely and elderly, setting up “refreshment centers” equipped with air conditioning and mister.

In the Vancouver area, schools have been closed and vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 have been suspended. Air conditioner and fan are not in stock.

“The duration of this heat wave is worrying because there has been little respite at night,” Canada’s environment minister said.

– “Heat Dome” –

Justin Trudeau said, “We see more and more of these types of extreme weather events in recent years. So we have to be realistic, we know this heat wave won’t be the last.”

These temperatures are explained by a phenomenon called the “heat dome”: high pressures trap warm air in the region. However, its intensity is extraordinary.

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A man cools off in a fountain during a heat wave in Baltimore, Maryland June 30, 2021 (AFP - Jim Watson)

A man cools off in a fountain during a heat wave in Baltimore, Maryland June 30, 2021 (AFP – Jim Watson)

“Global warming is at the root of a dangerous combination of extreme heat and prolonged drought,” Joe Biden said, insisting the climate-skeptical Republican should not be a “partisan debate”.

The work of firefighters is “no longer seasonal”, they face disasters throughout the year, he said while announcing the increase in their wages.

About 9,000 firefighters are currently stationed in the American West, specifically along the edge of Oregon and California to fight against the advance of the “lava fire,” which has already consumed more than 7,000 hectares and only 19% as of Wednesday. But was satisfied. afternoon.

“Hot days are always hot, dry days are always drier: the reality of global warming lies before us,” remarked Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom of California.

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