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Canada heatwave: Hundreds of sudden deaths recorded – BBC News

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Hundreds of sudden deaths, many of them suspected of being heat-related, have been reported during Canada’s record-breaking heatwave, officials say.

Some 486 fatalities were recorded over the past five days in British Columbia alone, a 195% increase on the usual amount over that period.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has offered condolences to the victims, many of whom were elderly.

Abnormally high temperatures have been recorded across North America.

British Columbia Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said on Wednesday: “It is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather BC has experienced and continues to impact many parts of our province.”

She said many of those who died in the heatwave had lived alone in homes that were not ventilated.

Ms Lapointe added that the western province had only seen three heat-related deaths over the past three to five years.

On Wednesday evening, the town of Lytton, British Columbia, was evacuated because of a wildfire – a day after it recorded Canada’s highest ever temperature of 49.6C (121.3F).

Mayor Jan Polderman told CBC News: “The whole town is on fire. It took like a whole 15 minutes from the first sign of smoke to all of a sudden there being fire everywhere.”

The heat over western parts of Canada and the US has been caused by a dome of static high-pressure hot air stretching from California to the Arctic territories. Temperatures have been easing in coastal areas but there is not much respite for inland regions.

The weather system is now moving eastwards over the Prairie provinces – Alberta and Saskatchewan and parts of Manitoba have been placed under Environment Canada heat warnings.

Janice Houldsworth, who lives in the British Columbia community of Castlegar, told the BBC she had not ventured outdoors for four days. “I’ve never experienced anything like this in all my 70 years,” she said.

“We have blackened out all the windows, have fans running 24/7 constantly spraying with mist, cold foot baths, and showers and [are] drinking tons of liquid.”

Vancouver has seen the temperature fall since earlier this week

Getty Images

In Vancouver alone, heat is believed to have been a contributing factor in the deaths of 65 people since Friday.

At an affordable housing event in Kanata, Ontario, Mr Trudeau described heatwaves as a growing problem, and went on to talk about climate change.

Canada’s southern neighbour, the United States, has also seen extreme heat.

In the US Pacific Northwest on Monday, temperatures hit 46.6C (116F) in Portland, Oregon, and 42.2C (108F) in Seattle, Washington, the highest levels since record-keeping began in the 1940s, the National Weather Service said.

In Oregon, authorities say at least 63 people have died from health issues related to the hot weather over the past few days. Forty-five of those deaths were recorded in Multnomah County.

At least 16 people have died in Washington state’s King and Snohomish counties.

US President Joe Biden has also linked the heatwave to climate change in a speech.

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Can the heat be linked to climate change?

Analysis box by Matt McGrath, environment correspondent

I’ve heard from scientists who say that in just a few days they’ll be able to determine just how much human driven warming has contributed to the searing temperatures seen in British Columbia.

One interesting piece of evidence is the lack of respite that night brings – recent temperatures at midnight in BC have been 2C warmer than the normal summer daytime figure.

Researchers say this combination of day and night-time heat is very dangerous for humans – a study published last year indicated that these compound events are closely linked to emissions of greenhouse gases.

Natural variability and local factors such as sea breezes can raise or limit the impacts of extreme heat. But the bigger picture is the rising thermometer of global heating is impacting all events.

“Every heatwave occurring today is made more likely and more intense by human-induced climate change,” Dr Friederike Otto from the University of Oxford told the BBC.

“Climate change is definitely one of the drivers of the intensity of this Canadian heatwave – but it is not the only one and determining how much it impacts it, is a work in progress.”

Even if they can’t directly attribute this heatwave to climate change, experts say the fingerprints of global heating are all over it.

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Risk of fire

Both Mr Trudeau and Mr Biden have warned of an increased chances of wildfires in the heatwave.

On Wednesday Mr Biden met with governors of western US states and fire officials, as the annual North American wildfire season began.

Jodi Hughes, weather presenter at Global News Calgary, told the BBC that firefighters were extremely concerned at the possibility of wild fires, possibly sparked by thunderstorms that could occur as the weather pattern changes.

Many homes in British Columbia do not have air conditioning as temperatures are usually far milder during the summer months.

One Vancouver resident told AFP news agency that hotels seemed to be sold out, as people flocked there for air conditioning, adding: “I’ve never seen anything like this. I hope it never becomes like this ever again.”

Officials in British Columbia have warned residents against leaving their doors open, after a spate of bears wandering into people’s home.

In Vancouver, residents have reported car windows cracking and melting, even when they are not parked in the sun.

People rest at the Oregon Convention Centre cooling station in Oregon, Portland

AFP via Getty Images

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Have you been affected by the high temperatures? Share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also get in touch in the following ways:

If you are reading this page and can’t see the form you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your question or comment or you can email us at HaveYourSay@bbc.co.uk. Please include your name, age and location with any submission.

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Coronavirus: Canada extends pandemic benefits through to Oct. 23 – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The federal government is tapping the brakes on its plans to phase out pandemic aid programs this summer, deciding instead to freeze benefits at current levels and extend help by an extra month beyond the previously planned end date.

The decision means that wage and rent subsidies for businesses, and income support for workers out of a job or who need to take time off to care for family or stay home sick, will last until Oct. 23.

Rates for the wage and rent subsidies will hold at current levels until September, holding off on the previously planned decline.

Similarly, the three “recovery” benefits for workers will keep paying out at $300 per week, and four more weeks of eligibility will be added to a maximum of 54 weeks.

The same extra weeks will be available to workers who have exhausted their employment insurance benefits.

The government estimates the revamped aid package will cost an additional $3.3 billion, with two-thirds of that for the recovery benefits, and one-third for the business supports.

As of July 18, the government had paid out $87.1 billion through the wage subsidies and $5.24 billion more in rent relief since the programs launched. As of July 25, the three “recovery” benefits had combined to pay out $26.9 billion.

The Liberals had planned to phase out the pandemic aid, foreseeing enough of a recovery by the fall that many of the measures would no longer be needed.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday that there were still too many businesses and workers who are not fully back on their feet yet, noting that it took the country a little longer to stamp out the third wave of the pandemic than the government expected.

“And I know all of us are watching carefully the Delta variant and are concerned about that,” she said at an event in Hamilton, Ont.

“From the government’s perspective, it is essential to do everything we can to be sure the country’s economic recovery is fast and robust, and that no one is left behind.”

Statistics Canada said Friday its preliminary estimate was that the economy grew by 0.7 per cent in June following two months of declines, and that real gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 2.5 per cent in the second quarter.

Total economic activity at the end of June was still about one per cent below pre-pandemic levels, and the labour market was about 340,000 jobs, or almost two per cent, below the levels seen in February 2020.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the government’s announcement provides some additional runway for many small businesses still trying to get back to normal sales levels.

The group, which represents 95,000 small businesses nationwide, is also asking for the government to extend the aid until the recovery is more advanced.

“Small firms are keen to replace subsidies with sales, but many firms continue to face a significant lack of demand due to capacity restrictions, border closures and customers hesitant to return to normal activities,” president Dan Kelly said in a statement.

By extending the benefits now until October, and holding the wage and rent subsidies at current rates until September, the Liberals have locked in changes before an expected election call next month that would largely put a pause on policy-making.

They could yet be extended further: Budget measures approved by Parliament in June give the government the ability to extend the aid by one more month, if necessary, to the end of November.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said an extra month of aid, while welcome in the face of the threat of a fourth wave, isn’t enough for people in hard-hit sectors like tourism that may not see a rebound until next year.

“The Liberals are more focused on plunging the country into an election in a pandemic,” he said in a statement. “Canadian families and small businesses don’t need an election now. They need help for as long as we are in a pandemic.”

On Friday, Freeland also made a plea for people to get vaccinated if they are eligible and have not already done so.

“The single most important economic policy in Canada today is for everyone who can get vaccinated to go out and get vaccinated,” she said. “We have done tremendously well, but there’s still that last mile to go.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2021.

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Canada’s wildfires could cost billions, kill thousands if nothing is done: report – Global News

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Western Canada must urgently address the threats posed by highly destructive wildfires or face deadly and costly consequences, says a group of forest and environmental experts from British Columbia and the United States.

The experts, including Mathieu Bourbonnais, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of B.C. Okanagan, predict devastating wildfires like those currently burning in B.C. will be “commonplace” by 2050.

The group has released a paper predicting billions of dollars spent on suppression and indirect costs from the fires _ as well as hundreds or thousands of premature deaths each year due to smoke exposure _ ifaction isn’t taken to address climate change and the “daunting” scale of fuel, such as fallen trees and dead vegetation, that’s built up.

“If you look at record-breaking seasons, we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on fire suppression,” said Bourbonnais, a former wildland firefighter from Alberta.


Click to play video: 'Concerns about the adverse effects of B.C. wildfire smoke pollution'



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Concerns about the adverse effects of B.C. wildfire smoke pollution


Concerns about the adverse effects of B.C. wildfire smoke pollution

“You can think about, if you spread that out over a couple of seasons, how may communities we could be engaged with on protecting watersheds, protecting drinking water sources, the communities themselves, high-value infrastructure, the ecosystems,” he said in an interview. “By doing that, we’re investing in a future that hopefully we don’t need to spend those kind of dollars on fire suppression.”

The group’s paper suggests creating patches of space in the forest that contain less flammable material, a strategy that can also boost the efficacy of fire suppression efforts, said Bourbonnais.

“Rather than crews responding to a fire with nothing but fuel in front of them, there are natural fire breaks, there’s old prescribed burns that help slow the fire down.”

Read more:
B.C. wildfire update: A pause in rapid fire growth but forecast remains hot and dry

Asked about the paper, the director of fire centre operations for the BC Wildfire Service said there was recognition of the work that needed to be done with communities as well as reducing fuel in the forests following historic wildfire seasons in 2017 and 2018.

“I’m part of many different planning tables and discussions within this province and within this ministry on how do we do this better,” Rob Schweitzer told a news conference on Thursday.

“Through prescribed fire, through utilization of Indigenous traditional knowledge in use of fire, as well as amending our forest harvesting practices and the woody debris left behind, are all pieces that we continue to discuss and actually start to change policy and implement new strategies to help reduce that amount of fuel.”


Click to play video: 'South Okanagan couple loses home to Nk’Mip Creek wildfire'



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South Okanagan couple loses home to Nk’Mip Creek wildfire


South Okanagan couple loses home to Nk’Mip Creek wildfire

About 1,250 wildfires have charred 4,560 square kilometres of bush since the start of B.C.’s fire season in April, compared with the 10-year average of 658 fires and about 1,060 square kilometres burned over the same time period, Schweitzer said.

Three dozen of the 245 wildfires that were burning in B.C on Thursday were considered either extremely threatening or highly visible, including a 655-square-kilometre fire north of Kamloops Lake that prompted an evacuation order for nearly 300 properties.

There were 28 states of local emergency and more than 60 evacuation orders covering 3,443 properties on Thursday. Nearly 90 evacuation alerts covered 17,679 properties, where residents were told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, said Pader Brach, executive director of regional operations for Emergency Management BC.

The number of daily new fires has subsided this week, Schweitzer said.


Click to play video: 'Concern over long-term impact of Ontario wildfires'



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Concern over long-term impact of Ontario wildfires


Concern over long-term impact of Ontario wildfires

But higher temperatures are expected to contribute to “severe burning conditions” in B.C.’s southern half, he added. The forecast should bring more fresh air to the Interior, he said, fuelling a “short-lived increase in fire growth” but also aiding firefighting efforts by air, which have been hampered by smoky skies.

The service also anticipates some lighting this weekend, Schweitzer said, and crews are standing ready if new fires start.

Environment Canada issued heat warnings stretching across B.C.’s southern Interior, inland sections of the north and central coasts, as well as the south coast and parts of Vancouver Island. The wildfire service warns the combination of high temperatures and low relative humidity will make fires even more intense.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Northern Canada may be a popular destination at the end of the world – CTV News

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TORONTO —
In the event of societal collapse, researchers suggest northern Canada may be “habitable” and could act as a lifeboat, but that other countries are better suited for survival.

The researchers found that Earth is in a “perilous state” due to rapid population growth and an energy consuming society that has altered the Earth’s system and biosphere. They say that societal collapse could happen in various forms, including economic collapse, worsening climate catastrophe, a pandemic worse than COVID-19, or another mass extinction event, which the researchers say is already underway.

The goal of the study, published in the journal Sustainability on July 21, was to create a shortlist of nations that could host survivors in the event of a societal collapse, where civilization could start over. The researchers evaluated the land, how much was available and its quality, how easy or difficult it is to travel to the country, available renewable resources, climate and agriculture, to determine where it would be best to survive the end of the world.

Islands with low population density, particularly those with distinct seasonal changes, fared the best with New Zealand topping the list. Iceland, U.K., Australia (specifically Tasmania) and Ireland made up the rest of the shortlist where it would be best for society to restart after a collapse.

Northern Canada, while not on the shortlist, could act as a “lifeboat” in the event of societal collapse due to climate change and extreme temperatures, but survival would rely on maintaining agriculture and renewable energy sources to keep the population alive.

The researchers showed that the shortlisted countries had strong renewable energy sources, were in temperate climates, and have plenty of agricultural land and space for growth. In the case of Iceland, where suitable land for livestock is not in abundance, this downside is offset by fisheries and the island’s wealth of renewable resources, of which geothermal resources have already been widely developed.

While this may give Canadians living in northern regions a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, there are still zombie fires to contend with as climate change warms the north and shortens winters.

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