Fifty people have died from heat-wave related causes in Quebec, Canada, provincial officials said Friday.
Twenty-eight of those deaths have come in Montreal, where humid temperatures climbed past 43 degrees Celsius.
Many of the victims were men over the age of 50 living alone in private apartments and seniors’ residences, according to Dr. David Kaiser with Montreal’s public health department.
None of the victims had air conditioning and many died inside of their homes, says Kaiser.
“It’s not surprising,” he said. “Heat risk in an urban setting is a combination of medical, social and environmental exposures. The elderly, people with chronic diseases and people with mental health problems are more at risk.”
Kaiser said the social aspect — living alone and not having another place to go to cool down — typically plays a major role in heat-related deaths in the city.
“Montreal is gigantic heat island,” he said, referring to an environmental phenomenon caused by a lack of vegetation and an abundance of concrete. There also micro heat islands throughout the city, particularly in some of the poorer areas, he added.
This, too, played a factor in the current heat wave, which began June 29.
Dr. Mylene Drouin, the regional director of Montreal’s public health department, said ambulance services reported receiving more than 1,200 calls overall in Montreal on Wednesday.
Mylène Drouin, Director of Santé Montréal, said the city will make “door-to-door,” visits to at-risk residents.
— Dre Mylène Drouin, directrice santé publique Mtl (@Santepub_Mtl) July 6, 2018
Heat warnings were in effect across southern Quebec, Ontario and the Atlantic region of the country, but temperatures were expected to drop overnight.
Due to a difference in reporting systems, Canadian officials do not know if other provinces suffered deaths in relation to the heat wave. A spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario told CBC that despite no deaths having been reported thus far, “an investigation can take at least 90 days before the cause of death is confirmed depending on the circumstances and the complexity of the case.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.