Death toll jumps to 34 as heat wave continues to bake southern Quebec

None of the 34 deaths blamed on the heat wave took place in public health institutions, according to Quebec's Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois.

Environment Canada issues heat, smog warning, though cooler weather expected in coming days

Humidex values were expected to reach between 40 and 45 in the Montreal region Thursday. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

The heat-related death toll jumped to 34 across Quebec Thursday, as Environment Canada issued a smog and heat warning for today.

As of midday, Montérégie's public health department reported two more deaths caused by the worst heat wave Quebec has seen in decades. Montreal's health department reported 18, and seven have been reported in the Eastern Townships. 

One death in Laval and six in the Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec region brought the total number of heat-related deaths in the province up to 34, and more are expected.

It's not clear whether people in other Canadian provinces — including in Ontario — affected by similar extreme heat and humidity have died. That's because the reporting system differs from province to province. 

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario said that it hadn't had any confirmed reports of heat-related deaths, but added that "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."

None of the deaths in Quebec took place in public health institutions, according to Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois. 

"We have to remain vigilant and continue to take precautions to avoid health problems," Charlebois said Thursday at a news conference. 

Charlebois encouraged people to reach out to loved ones, especially those who might be more vulnerable.

"The situation should be back to normal shortly."

Health officials have said the people who died didn't have air conditioning in their homes and had health issues.

Temperatures expected to drop Friday

Humidex values will reach between 40 and 45 in the Montreal region today.

Charlebois praised the health network for working together, saying their efforts bore fruit. 

"I think institutions are managing very well right now."

The heat wave began on June 29. Only now, a week later, is there some relief in the forecast. A high of 23 C is predicted for Friday and cooler temperatures will last through the weekend, into next week.

Health officials have said the people who died didn't have air conditioning in their homes and had health issues. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

Environment Canada says the areas most affected by the heat wave include the Island of Montreal, Châteauguay/La Prairie, Laval, Longueuil and Varennes.

A smog warning is also in effect for those areas as, Environment Canada states, high concentrations of ozone are expected and will result in poor air quality.

"High concentrations of pollutants are expected to persist through tonight," the agency says, noting smog is especially hard on asthmatic children and people with respiratory ailments or heart disease.

Across southern Quebec, public officials have been urging citizens to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses while, at the same time, keeping an eye on friends, family and neighbours.

In a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Valérie Plante said she is counting on Montrealers to knock on doors "just to find out if the person is O.K. It's a team effort."

'It's not over yet'

Although the temperature's expected to drop Friday, public health officials in Montreal are warning that they are still in intervention mode, because risk increases with each hot day.

"Today is the highest-risk day for people who have not had access to cold places," said Dr. David Kaiser from Montreal's public health department.

"It's not over yet."

None of the deaths took place in public health institutions, Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois said Thursday. (CBC)

The regional director of Montreal's public health department, Mylène Drouin, said officials have visited 34,000 homes where people might be more vulnerable to those risks.

The 12 people who have died from the heat in Montreal fit the profile of people who are more at risk — many were over the age of 65 and had histories of physical or mental health problems.

"None of them had access to air conditioning," Kaiser said. "Many of them were living alone."

Public health officials in the Eastern Townships and Montreal were asking the population to check on their neighbours.