Suffocating in the heat, the Vancouverites rush to the air-conditioned malls

Suffocated in the heat so extreme that it seems unreal, Vancouver residents are forced to seek refuge in air-conditioned refrigeration centers in the Canadian metropolis.

“We’ve had heat waves before, but never at this level,” Lou told AFP on Wednesday from one of the city’s 25 centers set up by the city. “I’m shocked by the number of deaths that have occurred,” she sighed. Dozens of people have died suddenly in recent days in the region, and the authorities attributed the excess mortality to hot temperatures.

“I don’t have air conditioning, just a fan at home, I came to work where it’s cool,” the Canadian explains.

British Columbia, the country’s westernmost province, has been suffocating for days, crushed by record heat that reached 49.5 degrees on Tuesday in the village of Lytton, about 250 kilometers northeast of Vancouver.

In addition to British Columbia, the US states of Washington and Oregon, across the border, suffocated in record temperatures this week.

Canadian authorities have urged residents to exercise caution, urging residents to stay hydrated and in the shade as much as possible.

– “unprecedented” –

Peter Lohuaro, 70, says he was forced to stop riding his bike due to ozone pollution in the heat context.

“It’s unprecedented: I’ve traveled to hot places like Death Valley (in California, editor’s note) and it’s hot,” says the refreshing center.

“For people living in apartments without air conditioning or facing south, many have had to rent hotel rooms or really suffer,” laments the septuagenarian.

Schools in the region have been closed and vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 have been suspended. Air conditioning and fans are not in stock.

Ambulance crosses the city of Vancouver in the heat of June 30, 2021 (AFP – Don MacKinnon)

“It’s hot in our house, we really had to rely on our friends to provide us with fans,” said Ashley Vaughan who walks with her three children as the temperature starts to drop. “My kids were very hurt, there was a lot of crying because it was hot,” this mother laments.

Provincial forensic pathologist services identified an “unprecedented number” of deaths, “with at least 486 dead,” between Friday and Wednesday, against about 165 deaths on average over this five-day period at normal times, an increase of “195%.” .

“Although it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are related to the heat wave, it is likely that the significant increase in death is attributed to the extreme weather conditions BC has experienced and continues to experience. In many areas,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief medical examiner in the province, in a statement.

For their part, Vancouver police said they were overwhelmed by calls for help on their emergency lines.

“We’ve never experienced such heat in Vancouver,” said Police Sergeant Steve Addison. “And unfortunately dozens of people are dying from it,” he lamented.

Among those who died, mother-in-law of infectious disease expert Tara Moriarty: “It’s pretty devastating,” she said on Twitter, announcing the death of her partner’s “healthy” mother, from “heat stroke,” Sunday night.

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

“This special event is fully in line with the science of climate change: more intense heat waves, longer duration, more extreme heat, earlier in the season,” notes AFP Terri Lang, a meteorologist from Canada for environmental protection.

“People from the weather community – forecasters and climatologists – all hold their breath looking at the numbers,” he said. “They’re alarming.”

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