Hundreds lost lives and several others were evacuated in western Canada and Northwest US regions due to record-breaking heatwave.
Media reports highlighted that the temperature touched 49.6°C forcing schools and colleges to shut down in an attempt to prevent loss of life. Pictures of infrastructure melting and roads cracking due to the intense heatwave have taken the internet by storm.
Data Related To Fatalities
Lisa Lapointe, British Columbia's chief coroner, said 486 deaths had been reported in the Canadian province between June 25 and June 30. Under normal circumstances, about 165 deaths would typically be documented, reported The Indian Express.
She further added that the number of deaths could rise in the coming days. Among these, most fatalities were reported from Vancouver, Surrey, and Burnaby. 98 sudden deaths were reported in Vancouver alone and the police suspect heat was to be a contributing factor in the cause of death. The report mentions two-thirds of the victims were over the age of 70.
"While it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat-related, it is believed that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather," LaPointe said.
Canada's national record was broken three days in a row and reached 49.6°C (121.3°F) in Lytton, B.C. on Tuesday afternoon.
"We've never seen anything like this, and it breaks our hearts," Vancouver Police Sgt. Steve Addison said while speaking to BNO News.
'True Health Crisis'
Multiple reports by local officials mentioned more than 1,900 people sought medical attention in connection with the heatwave in Washington and Oregon, but the data is still incomplete. Authorities have reported 83 deaths, including 63 in Oregon and 23 in the state of Washington.
"This was a true health crisis that has underscored how deadly an extreme heatwave can be, especially to otherwise vulnerable people," Dr. Jennifer Vines, the health officer in Multnomah County, Oregon, said in the report.
Vines informed that most of the victims were those aged from 44 to 97. They also had comorbidities that may have made them more vulnerable to extreme heat. She added that most of them were alone without air conditioning or a fan.
Why Do Heatwaves Occur?
The National Weather Service (NWS) explained that temperatures must be above the historical average in an area for two or more days to call it a heatwave. They explain that heatwaves start when high pressure in the atmosphere moves in and pushes warm air towards the ground. That air warms up further as it is compressed.
Heat domes or sprawling ridges of high pressure bring abundant sunshine and the air gets heated up as it is compressed.
The NWS said that the current heatwave effect in the northwestern United States and Canada was due to both weather effects and climate-driven warming.
"This is one of the most extreme heat waves that we have seen on Earth, in many years, anywhere, in terms of the deviation from the typical conditions in this particular part of the world," said Daniel Swain, a climate expert at UCLA, reported NDTV. Swain noted that temperature records are rarely broken by "more than a degree."