As many as 16 people have died in Quebec from complications related to the extended period of hot and humid weather hitting much of Eastern and Central Canada.
With the muggy temperatures expected to persist for at least another two days, authorities are urging people to be vigilant.
Montreal health officials say 11 people have died since the intense heat set in over the weekend, with health authorities in the Eastern Townships region east of Montreal attributing another four deaths to the sweltering temperatures. A fifth fatality may also have been caused by the heat, they said.
Dr. Melissa Genereux, head of public health in the Eastern Townships, told a news conference Wednesday the victims are all adults — either seniors or people suffering from chronic illness. The deaths were not concentrated in any specific municipality.
“There are still two days left of particularly hot weather with particularly high humidex levels,” Genereux said. “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 are advising people to drink plenty of water and check in on neighbours or relatives and get them to a place where air conditioning is available.
“It could save a life,” Genereux said.
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.
In Montreal, police and firefighters 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.
Dr. Mylene Drouin, head of public health for the Montreal region, said the number of fatalities has risen since authorities first announced six deaths on Tuesday, but that the spike is not unexpected.
“As the heat wave continues, it’s clear we expect the number of deaths attributable to the heat to rise,” she said.
Drouin said there have been thousands of home visits and that officials want to avoid the results of an extended heat period in 2010, when 106 people died in the Montreal area.
Meanwhile, the ambulance service that serves a large swath of the Montreal area is calling on people to refrain from calling unless it is a real emergency.
Urgences-sante says it has been inundated by the volume of calls since a heat wave enveloping Eastern and Central Canada settled in for an extended stay over the weekend.
The ambulance corporation says it has received 1,200 calls per day in Montreal and nearby Laval over the past four days, which is 30 per cent more than on usual busy days.
Urgences-sante president Nicola D’Ulisse says the service is overwhelmed and has reached the limits of what it can provide.
He is asking residents to call a provincial health-consultation line in the event of minor health problems or to check in with friends or family so as to leave 911 lines free for real emergencies.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press