Canadian Armed Forces are on standby Saturday (3) to help evacuate cities and fight more than 170 fires caused by a stifling heat wave and drought in the west of the country.
Officials said at least 177 fires have broken out in British Columbia, 76 of which have been recorded in the past two days. Most of it was caused by lightning.
“yesterday [sexta-feira] “We’ve seen about 12,000 lightning bolts,” said Clive Chapman, director of operations for the British Columbia Fire Service, according to CBC Public Radio.
“Many of these lightning strikes struck nearby communities, as seen in the Kamloops area,” he added, 350 kilometers northeast of Vancouver.
While the phenomenon of a “thermal dome” trapping hot air in the region is responsible for extreme conditions in the western United States and Canada, experts say climate change is causing temperature records to be broken more often.
Globally, the decade leading up to 2019 was the warmest on record, and the five hottest years have occurred since 2012, according to Climate.gov.
On Friday, Canada’s Public Security Minister Bill Blair cited “extreme, dry heat conditions” that are “unprecedented” in British Columbia.
“These fires show that we are at the beginning of what promises a long and difficult summer,” he told a news conference.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the Incident Response Group, which includes several ministers, after speaking to local, regional and Indigenous leaders.
“We will be here to help,” he told reporters.
The group said it had decided to establish an operations center in Edmonton, in the west of the country, with up to 350 military personnel to provide logistical support to the region, according to Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan. Military planes were also sent.
About 1,000 people have been forced from their homes by the fires in British Columbia, and many more are missing.
At least 719 people died in a week, “three times more” than the average for that period, the British Columbia Department of Medical Examining reported.
The extreme heat was likely a “significant factor,” said Lisa Lapointe, the county’s chief medical examiner.
The small town of Lytton was evacuated on Wednesday after a rapid fire broke out in the area. About 90% of the city has been burned, according to Brad Weiss, the MP representing the district.
49.6 degrees Celsius was recorded in this city on Tuesday, a record in Canada.
The heat wave continued to spread across Canada on Saturday, and also affected the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as parts of the Northwest Territories and parts of northern Ontario.
Further south, Washington and Oregon are experiencing record temperatures.
On Friday, authorities warned that at least 94 people could die in Oregon due to a heat wave. And in California, three fires have already destroyed about 16,200 hectares in the north of the state.
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