The majority of the small western Canadian town of Lytton was destroyed by a forest fire that started after three days of record-breaking heat, as government officials issued new evacuation orders on Thursday as further flames raged across the province.
More than 1,000 people were evacuated late Wednesday in and around Lytton, British Columbia, when a fast-moving fire enveloped the city and caught locals off guard. B.C. Premier John Horgan told reporters that the cause of the incident was being examined.
According to Post Media, a couple in their 60s died in the fire, according to their son. The deaths could not be independently verified by Reuters. Some persons are missing, according to BC officials, and “most homes and structures” in Lytton have been destroyed.
In a Facebook post, Brad Vis, a member of Parliament for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, said, “The town has received structural damage and 90% of the community has burned, including the centre of the town.”
According to him, the fire also damaged BC Hydro stations and roadways, restricting road access to Lytton.
In the last 24 hours, 62 new fires have been recorded in British Columbia, causing authorities to issue additional evacuation orders affecting 700 residents in the Cariboo region.
The scorching weather also wreaked havoc on the US Northwest, with temperatures reaching new highs.
Residents of Lytton were seen rushing to get out of town in cars as fires burned down trees and several structures, according to amateur video footage.
Late on Wednesday, Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman issued an order for everyone in the town of 250 to leave. On Wednesday, residents of 87 homes north of Lytton were also forced to vacate their homes.
On Tuesday, Lytton established a new temperature record of 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.28 degrees Fahrenheit). The previous record for a high temperature in Canada, which is known for its bitterly severe winters, was 45 degrees Celsius, established in Saskatchewan in 1937.
Strong gusts of up to 71 kph (44 mph) were recorded in the area on Wednesday, igniting the fires.
The B.C. Coroners Service reported on Wednesday that the province had documented at least 486 sudden fatalities in the five days leading up to Wednesday, about three times the usual number.