17 people in Quebec have lost their lives to sweltering heat and suffocating humidity that have blanketed Eastern and Central Canada over the past few days.
Authorities are urging people to remain as Environment Canada says a heat warning remains in effect for an area spanning southwestern and northeastern Ontario through southern Quebec and into the Atlantic region, with above normal temperatures and humid conditions likely to stick around into Thursday.
Montreal health officials said there have been 12 heat-related deaths since the weekend, while authorities in the Eastern Townships region east of Montreal are attributing another five deaths to the weather.
Dr. Melissa Genereux, head of public health in the Eastern Townships, told a news conference the victims are all adults – either seniors or people suffering from chronic illness. The deaths were not concentrated in any specific municipality.
Genereux said, “There are still two days left of particularly hot weather with particularly high humidex levels.We’re inviting the population to be vigilant for the next two days – for themselves as well as those close to them.”
Officials across the province advised people to drink plenty of water and check in on neighbours or relatives and, if need be, get them to a place where air conditioning is available.
“It could save a life,” Genereux said.
Dr. David Kaiser, physician-manager at Montreal’s public health authority, said officials aren’t surprised by the number of deaths in the metropolis.
Kaiser said, “We would prefer having no deaths related to heat but with four days of intense heat and especially hot nights, we expect to see an impact on people’s health.”
He said the Montreal heat exposure victims were between 50 and 80.“None of the people we’ve identified in the last four days had air conditioning at home,” Kaiser noted.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted condolences to the relatives of the Quebec victims.
My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who have died in Quebec during this heat wave. The record temperatures are expected to continue in central & eastern Canada, so make sure you know how to protect yourself & your family: https://t.co/JSPPsU80x9
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) July 4, 2018
No deaths have been reported in other provinces. In Ontario, a spokeswoman for the coroner’s office said it couldn’t confirm if there were any heat-related deaths, adding it could take weeks or several months to complete such probes.
Kaiser said one reason Quebec has been reporting so many deaths is because it’s part of the province’s extreme heat plan, where health officials work in tandem with first responders and emergency rooms to track down potential cases of heat-related illnesses and deaths.
“We go out to the paramedics, we go out to the hospitals and we ask them to make sure to identify any deaths they believe are related to heat and that allows us to intervene more quickly,” Kaiser said.
Police and firefighters also continued to go door to door in areas identified as having people considered at high risk: those with chronic illness or mental-health problems, those who live alone and people without air conditioning at home.