At least 54 heat-related deaths in Quebec as hot spell comes to an end

At least 54 people have died in the past six days, possible victims of a heat wave that consumed southern Quebec and saw temperatures in the mid to low 30s for nearly a week.

28 of those deaths were in Montreal, according to health officials

Today's forecast predicts a high of 24 C, 10 degrees lower than Thursday's peak temperature. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

At least 54 people have died in the past six days, apparent victims of a heat wave that consumed southern Quebec and saw temperatures in the low to mid 30s for nearly a week.

According to the province's Health Ministry, 28 of those deaths were in Montreal, 10 more than were reported Thursday. 

The breakdown of deaths per region is as follows:

  • Mauricie: 7
  • Montreal: 28
  • Laval: 1
  • Lanaudière: 1
  • Laurentides: 1
  • Montérégie: 6
  • Estrie: 9

In a news release, the ministry said an increase in the death toll was expected because of the toll the heat takes on the body, especially for the elderly and those with chronic diseases, and because of the heat accumulation inside buildings.

Many of the deceased were over the age of 65 and had histories of physical or mental health problems, fitting the profile of those who are more at risk.

The effects of the heat wave can persist for 24 to 48 hours after the temperature returns to normal, the ministry said. The next update on the number of deaths is expected to come on Monday,

Environment Canada lifted the heat warnings that had been in place in the province for several days, although temperatures are expected to climb back up to 29 C on Sunday and Monday. 

According to Environment Canada's Serge Mainville, the weather will be much less humid than during this week's hot spell. 

"The higher temperatures and humid Sunday and Monday will mostly affect southern Quebec," Mainville said.

CBC Montreal's data journalist Roberto Rocha put this graph together based on the maximum daily temperatures during summer in Montreal since 1965. (Roberto Rocha/CBC)

Public health still on alert

Despite the milder weather, emergency responders from Urgences-Santé will have a higher number of paramedics working than usual.

Thursday's temperature reached a high of 34 C, which led to a higher number of 911 calls for paramedics, according to Urgences-Santé spokesperson Valérie Tremblay.

"For the paramedics and the dispatchers, it's very hard work," she told CBC News.

She said paramedics responded to 1,378 calls Thursday, about 30 per cent more than the average.

Montreal public health officials are continuing door-to-door checkups today, and will be targeting the most vulnerable clients, according to the regional director of Montreal's public health department, Mylène Drouin.

"We're going to visit several rooming houses and possibly old folks' homes to see how men are recovering," Drouin said.

About 60 per cent of those who died in Montreal were men living alone. None of them had air conditioning at home, and all of them lived in buildings with many storeys, Drouin said.

With files from Radio-Canada and La Presse Canadienne