As it happenedended1625236965

Canada US heatwave: Aerial photos reveal wildfire ‘war zone’ as ‘heat dome’ kills hundreds

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Rory Sullivan
Friday 02 July 2021 15:42
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Satellite video of 'firestorm' over Canada cause 700,000 lightning strikes in one night

A town in British Columbia which experienced record-high temperatures earlier this week has been largely destroyed by wildfire, with at least two deaths reported.

Lytton endured highs of 49.6 C on Tuesday, the day before 1,000 residents from the area were forced to flee their homes because of the encroaching flames.

A couple in their 60s who took cover from the fire died after a power pole collapsed and fell onto them, according to the Vancouver Sun.

By Thursday afternoon, most homes and buildings in Lytton were ruined, said Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s safety minister.

The British Columbia Wildfire Service reported that the Lytton wildfire was burning out of control over an area of approximately 30 square miles.

Referring to the damage wrought by the flames, John Haugen, acting chief of Lytton First Nation, said: “It was like a war zone last night.”

The wildfires were sparked by an unprecedented heatwave across western Canada and the US, which is believed to have killed hundreds of people in British Columbia and the American states of Oregon and Washington.

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Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the heatwave and wildfires in Canada and the US Northwest.

Rory Sullivan2 July 2021 07:59
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Wildfire destroys town in British Columbia

Temperatures in the British Columbia town of Lytton soared to a Canadian record of 49.6C on Tuesday.

One day later, the town had to be evacuated after a wildfire reached it.

The flames subsequently destroyed most of Lytton’s homes and buildings, according to Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s safety minister.

John Haugen, a deputy chief with the Lytton First Nation, said the community had suffered tremendous “devastation and loss”.

Rory Sullivan2 July 2021 08:06
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Two reported dead in Lytton fire

At least two people have died in the Lytton wildfire, the Canadian media has reported.

A couple in their 60s were killed when the flames caused an electricity pole to collapse and fall on the pit where they were taking refuge, according to the Vancouver Sun.

“It’s their grave now,” their son told the newspaper.

It is unclear how and when their bodies would be recovered, he added.

Rory Sullivan2 July 2021 08:22
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‘Extreme risk’ of wildfires through British Columbia, premier warns

The premier of British Columbia (BC) has warned that most of the province is at risk from wildfires.

Speaking on Thursday, John Horgan said that 62 new fires had started in the previous 24 hours, adding that there had been 29,000 lightning strikes.

“I cannot stress enough how extreme the risk is at this time in almost every part of British Columbia,” he said.

Although he would not quantify the extent of the damage in the town of Lytton, Mr Horgan said it had been “devastated”.

“And it will take an extraordinary amount of effort to get that historic location back to what it was,” he added.

The premier spoke with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau yesterday, who confirmed that federal support would be given to BC to help tackle the fires.

Rory Sullivan2 July 2021 08:42
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Almost 100 wildfires raging in one Canadian province

Almost 100 wildfires continue to rage through the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC), the emergency services have said.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 87 active fires, including nine of note, according to the British Wildfire Services.

One of the conflagrations, known as the Sparks Lake fire, now covers an area of 200 square kilometres north of Kamloops.

The unprecedented heatwave means BC is particularly vulnerable to further wildfires.

Rory Sullivan2 July 2021 09:02
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Ninety per cent of Lytton affected by wildfire, says politician

Ninety per cent of the village of Lytton has been burned after a wildfire swept through it, a Canadian politician has confirmed.

Brad Vis, the MP for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, wrote on Facebook that the flames had caused “extensive damage” to Lytton and “surrounding criticial infrastructure” such as railways and highways.

“The town has sustained structural damage and 90% of the village is burned, including the centre of town,” he added.

Rory Sullivan2 July 2021 09:22
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Seven dead from heatwave in Spokane, Washington

Seven people have died as a result of the heatwave in Washington state’s Spokane County, its medical examiner has confirmed.

“At the present time there are seven deaths wherein circumstances suggest they may be heat related, although autopsy results are not yet available to confirm,” they wrote.

Two of the victims lived in the same apartment block and have been named as Robert Hunt, 68, and Andre Pharr, 36.

Andrew Buncombe reports from the city of Spokane:

Seven dead in Spokane heatwave - where even the ice cream shops are being forced to shut

Extreme heat warning extended for several days amid record temperatures, writes Andrew Buncombe from roasting Washington state

Rory Sullivan2 July 2021 09:43
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Heatwave causes Washington state’s largest glacier melt in a century

It is not just humans that are suffering from the North American heatwave - nature is too.

The record-breaking temperatures are responsible for the biggest glacier melt in the state of Washington in about 100 years, according to the glaciologist TJ Fudge.

My colleague Jane Dalton has more details:

Heatwave causing ‘biggest glacier melt in a century’

‘I think this is definitely unprecedented. We’re going to set a lot of records,’ says water expert

Rory Sullivan2 July 2021 10:02
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Heatwave death toll rises in Oregon

The heatwave death toll in Oregon has risen to 79, the authorities have said.

In the state’s Multnomah County, the youngest victim was 44 and the oldest was 97.

Andrew Phelps, the state’s head of emergency management, said: “Learning of the tragic loss of life as a result of the recent heat wave is heartbreaking. As an emergency manager - and Oregonian - it is devastating that people were unable to access the help they needed during an emergency.”

Over in Washington state, more than 20 deaths have been connected to the intense heat. However, officials said this is expected to rise.

Rory Sullivan2 July 2021 10:23
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Temperatures worsen ‘humanitarian crisis’ among Portland’s homeless community

Scott Kerman, who works at a homelessness charity in Portland, Oregon, said the region was already suffering from a “humanitarian crisis” before the heatwave struck.

Now, matters are even worse for the state’s unhoused people, he added.

Mr Kerman told The Independent: “Last summer and fall we had the horrific wildfires. The smoke was unbearable. Then you get into the winter. Now we just went through an unprecedented heat wave. It was really a matter of life or death just to keep people hydrated.”

His comments come as experts warn of a “climate change-homelessness nexus”, whereby more people become homeless as a result of the climate, and those who are already experience greater difficulties.

Homeless people were already in ‘humanitarian crisis’ during Covid. Then the Northwest heat wave hit.

Coronavirus and wildfires were already making life very difficult for unhoused people in the Pacific Northwest, and this week’s record-breaking heat wave just made things worse, writes Josh Marcus

Rory Sullivan2 July 2021 10:44

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