Lightning strikes stoke forest fires in Canada

Over 710,000 lightning strikes were recorded in British Columbia and western Alberta between 3 p.m. on Wednesday and 6 a.m. on Thursday, up from an average 8,300 from the same period over the past five years, said Chris Vagasky, a meteorologist with Vaisala, a global environmental measurements company which collects the data.

The strikes caused several forest fires across central British Columbia, with 136 fires burning as of Friday afternoon, B.C. officials said at a briefing.

The fires are expected to burn through 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres) by the end of the weekend, officials said, a significantly higher figure than by this point in previous years - B.C. does not usually see its forest fire season ramp up until late July.

Over 1,300 homes have been ordered evacuated, and it is not known how many people are missing. The Red Cross is running a phone line for family reunification, officials said.

The Pacific province of British Columbia has been recovering from the grip of an unprecedented heat wave, which has so far caused 719 confirmed deaths, triple what would normally occur in the same time period, the province's chief coroner said on Friday.

During the heat wave, the town of Lytton broke Canada's 80-plus year old heat record with a 49.6°C (121.28°F) temperature. A forest fire that started on Wednesday razed Lytton to the ground, and caused two deaths. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

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