Canada heatwave 2021: what are the record temperatures , and what’s causing the heat - as dozens reported dead

More than 130 people have died over the last few days - with 65 unexpected deaths in Vancouver alone

Canada has experienced soaring temperatures in the last week, as the west of the country hit 49.6C in some places.

While residents in Lytton, British Columbia, have been spotted bathing in lakes and showering themselves in street sprinklers, the heat is having an increasingly negative impact.

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Kids have made good use of sprinklers and water features in Richmond, British Columbia, as schools and Covid-vaccination centres were forced to close (Picture: Getty Images)

Record temperatures were reached on Monday and British Columbia Police have since announced that they had responded to some 486 fatalities,a 195% increase on the usual amount over five days, thought to be related to the soaring temperatures.

So, why is Canada experiencing such high temperatures, where has been the hottest and how can you stay cool in extreme heat? This is what you need to know.

Why is Canada experiencing a heatwave?

The heatwave is caused by a “heat dome”, static high pressure which acts much like a lid on a cooking pot - with heat unable to escape, it raises the temperature of everything in the pot.

People have been taking shelter in the Oregon Convention Centre cooling station in US, as the heatwave moves over much of the United States. (Picture: Getty Images)

The Met Office explained how the large area affected by the pressure will see temperatures continue to rise, clear skies and unbroken sunshine.

The longer the period of high pressure lasts, the longer the temperatures will continue to hike upwards.

Which places in Canada are the hottest?

The country's west and the US Pacific north-west have been experiencing the high pressure and unrivalled temperatures since Friday, 25 June.

On Monday, Lytton in British Columbia soared to 46.6C (116F), breaking an 84-year-old record, officials said. The area then broke its own record, reaching 47.9C on Monday and 49.6C on Tuesday, 29 June.

Before Sunday, temperatures in Canada had never been higher than 45C.

Vancouver, about 150 miles (250km) south-west of Lytton, recorded all-time high temperatures, as did 40 other areas of British Columbia.

Intense heat has also been felt in Canada’s arctic northern areas and in bordering US states, such as Idaho.

How is the heat affecting people?

Since the heat became unbearable, fans and air conditioners have been selling out across the country and cooling rooms have been set up in many of the hottest areas.

Some bars and restaurants have been forced to close, as well as a public swimming pool.

While many have been making the most of the sizzling hot weather - sunbathing in parks, bathing in lakes and making use of pop-up misting stations - it has proven deadly for others.

Vancouver police confirmed they had responded to hundreds sudden deaths since Friday, many were elderly.

Those whose have been found dead have mostly not had ventilation systems in their homes.

The number of deaths across Canada caused by the heat has now reached nearly 500, and is expected to rise further as inland areas struggle to cope with the conditions.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan said the hottest week the province had ever experienced had led to "disastrous consequences for families and for communities".

British Columbia Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said on Wednesday: "It is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather BC has experienced and continues to impact many parts of our province."

How to stay cool in extreme heat

Drink plenty of water - hydration is key to allowing the body to cool down and our bodies can become dehydrated quickly in the heat.

The colour of your urine is a great indicator of how dehydrated you are, the clearer it is the more hydrated you are.

Eat water rich foods - strawberries, apples, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, celery and peaches can also help you stay hydrated. Try not to eat large amounts in one sitting as this can lead to your body working hard to digest food and in turn, producing heat.

Spicy and hot foods can actually help to cool you down also.

Make good use of the shade and indoor spaces - while you may be desperate to make the most of the sunny weather and bathe in the rays, you are best to remain in air conditioned and cool, sheltered spaces when temperatures are exceptionally high.

Dress cool - extra layers means extra heat, which is what you should try to avoid in hot temperatures. Instead, loose linen and cotton garments are breathable and keep you cool. Try to avoid black as it absorbs the light and creates heat. The right type of bed linen is also crucial for keeping cool as you sleep - use light sheets and breathable covers to let your body heat escape.

Pet owners should also be vigilant in the heat, as dogs with thick coats can struggle to regulate their temperature. Do not leave your dog inside your car for any length of time during hot days and always remember to take water on dog walks to help cool them down.