LOS ANGELES • The death toll in a week-long eastern Canadian heatwave has reached 54, while a dangerous heatwave was expected to continue to bake Southern California amid raging wildfires.
Most of the victims linked to the "overwhelming heat" in Canada were in the Montreal area, which recorded 28 deaths, metropolitan health authorities said in an e-mail.
The other victims were reported in the south-west of the French-Canadian province, the Quebec Health Ministry said.
In southern California, the mercury was expected to soar above 43 deg C across the region and set all-time records in several places.
It was 43.9 deg C at one point last Friday at the University of California Los Angeles, breaking the all-time high temperature record of 42.8 deg C set in 1939, the weather service reported on Twitter.
That was still 3.3 deg C cooler than the record 47.2 deg C set in Woodland Hills, a Los Angeles neighbourhood, at about 1pm local time last Friday, the service said.
High temperatures were expected to exceed 37 deg C in Los Angeles and San Diego yesterday, the National Weather Service said in a series of excessive heat warnings and advisories.
"An excessive heat warning means an extended period of dangerously hot temperatures will occur with increased occurrences of heat illnesses likely," the service said.
A fast-moving wildfire driven by strong wind and high temperatures tore through homes north of Los Angeles late last Friday, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.
The blaze broke out in a building in Goleta, California, at about 8.30pm. It spread to vegetation before burning up to 20 other buildings, fire officials said.
Video footage showed firefighters battling fires at several homes, as Santa Barbara County authorities said at least 2,200 residents were evacuated and 2,000 were without power, according to a Twitter post.
Dozens of fires have broken out across the western United States, fanned by scorching heat, winds and low humidity.
The first death attributed to them was announced last Friday, when the remains of an unidentified person were found in a home burned to the ground by the Klamathon fire, which broke out on Thursday near California's border with Oregon.
This year's fires had burned more than 1.17 million ha as of last Thursday, compared with an annual average of about 971,245 ha over the last 10 years, according to the National Interagency Fire Centre.
Last Thursday, Environment Canada had forecast a maximum temperature of 35 deg C, but said the heat index would make it feel like 45 deg C.
The mercury has since June 29 regularly topped 30 deg C, accompanied by stifling humidity levels, but temperatures were expected to drop back to seasonal averages from yesterday.
Most of the victims in Montreal were men in their 50s or older, and living in vulnerable conditions without air conditioning, regional public health director Mylene Drouin has said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE