‘Whole town is on fire’: Over 1,000 evacuated as heatwave causes wildfires in Canada
An unprecedented scorching heatwave has invited a serious threat from wildfires in Canada as several towns reeling under record-breaking temperatures for the past few days. More than 1,000 people in and around the small western Canadian town of Lytton, 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Vancouver, were evacuated after government officials issued fresh evacuation orders on Thursday as forest fires rapidly tore through the province.
Videos went viral on social media platforms showing wildfires rising on the hills overlooking Lytton. The fire came a day after the village, in the province of British Columbia, set a Canadian record high temperature of 49.6 degrees Celsius (121 degrees Fahrenheit) with winds were gusting at 67 kilometres per hour.
“It’s dire. The whole town is on fire,” Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman told CBC Vancouver, “It took a whole 15 minutes from the first sign of smoke to, all of a sudden, there being fire everywhere.”
As many as 486 sudden deaths due to the heatwave were reported in the town over five days to Wednesday.
“An exceptionally strong ridge of high pressure over British Columbia will continue to bring record-breaking temperatures over the next couple of days,” Environment Canada said in a bulletin, as quoted by Agence France-Presse.
The sizzling heat wave was also seen in the U.S. Northwest with record-high temperatures. The US states of Washington and Oregon also reported sweltering temperatures for the past few days and several hundred sudden deaths.
The heat wave forced schools and COVID-19 vaccination centres to close in the Vancouver area, while officials set up temporary water fountains and misting stations on street corners. Stores quickly sold out of portable air conditioners and fans, so several people without cooling at home told AFP they hunkered down in their air-conditioned cars or underground parking garages at night.