Officials hunted for any missing residents of a British Columbia town destroyed by wildfire as the Canadian province’s chief coroner said reports suggest two people have died as a result of blaze.
Lisa Lapointe told a news conference that a team was standing by to conduct an investigation in order to confirm the deaths, but it was not yet safe to enter the area.
The roughly 1000 residents of Lytton had to abandon their homes with just a few minutes’ notice after suffering the previous day under a record high of 49C.
Officials said it was unclear whether anyone remained in the village 150km northeast of Vancouver because of a lack of cell service and because it wasn’t safe to enter most of the area.
“We do know there are some people who are unaccounted for,” said Mike Farnworth, the province’s public safety minister, though he said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Red Cross were working to locate people.
Those who escaped the fire scattered to evacuation centres across the province.
Tony Sam said it was “chaotic” driving through thick smoke to Meritt, about 58km southeast of Lytton.
“You could barely see driving through the smoke,” he told Global TV.
Both his house and his mother’s home were destroyed.
“It’s gone,” he said. “Nothing left of it.”
Noeleen McQuary-Budde didn’t even have time to grab her shoes before piling into a truck with her husband and 11 other people to escape the flames.
“The whole village of Lytton went up in I would say 10 minutes,” she said. “We were watching it burn and just thanking Creator that we got out.”
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged that the federal government will “help rebuild and help people come through this”.
Trudeau said he had spoken with British Columbia Premier John Horgan and John Haugen, acting chief of the of Lytton First Nation and planned to convene an emergency response group.
Another wildfire threat at Kamloops, 355km northeast of Vancouver, forced an evacuation of about 200 people, but officials said they could return.
Kamloops also recorded a record his temperature this week of 47Cbut it had cooled to around 32C.
“I can’t imagine what the firefighters are going through working in these conditions,” said Noelle Kekula, a fire information officer for the British Columbia Wildfire Service. “We are up for a real battle.”
The Wildfire Service said at least 106 fires were burning across the province, including dozens that started within the past two days.
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