More than 130 people died in Canada after an unprecedented heatwave shattered temperature records. With most of them being elderly or having underlying health conditions, British Columbia recorded 486 deaths in five days, compared to an average of 165, according to the BBC. Only three heat-related deaths had occurred in the western province in the previous three to five years.
Predicted to be "historic, dangerous, prolonged, and unprecedented," by the National Weather Service, the heatwave is incredibly worrisome with extremely high temperatures being recorded throughout large swathes of North America.
Following the news that Portland and Seattle had set all-time highs on Monday, the British Columbia village of Lytton set Canada's heat record for a third straight day Tuesday, with temperatures reaching 116°F (46.6°C) on Sunday, 118°F (47.7°C) Monday, and finally 121.3°F (49.6°C) Tuesday. To put things in perspective, this temperature is higher than the all-time high in Las Vegas, which is 117°F. Moreover, the Sahara Desert's average high temperatures in summer, which is one of the driest and hottest regions of the world, are over 104°F (40°C) for months at a time and can soar to 117 °F (47°C).
The previous national heat record for Canada was 113°F (45°C).
And most recently, on Wednesday evening, things have gotten a turn for the worst. A wildfire roared over the 162-mile (260-km) village of Lytton, with a population of 250 people, which had set the record the day before.
According to the Washington Post, the blazes were probably ignited due to dry lightning, or cloud-to-ground bolts from thunderstorms producing little or no rain. In just 15 minutes, the town was engulfed in fire, according to Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman who spoke to NEWS 1130, a news radio station in Vancouver.
A mandatory evacuation order had to be executed at 6 p.m, with residents, many without their belongings, fleeing shortly after since several buildings were destroyed. There were also injured residents.
Climate scientists are still trying to determine to what extent climate change may have aggravated the heatwave. While there is natural variability and local factors, the global heating of the world with wildfires becoming more common does have an impact.
"Every heatwave occurring today is made more likely and more intense by human-induced climate change," Dr. Friederike Otto from the University of Oxford said to 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."