Heat wave kills 19 in Canada

Women and children play in the water fountains at the Place des Arts in Montreal on Tuesday

Women and children play in the water fountains at the Place des Arts in Montreal on Tuesday

Quebec health officials say at least 54 people are now believed to have died from heat-related complications. Numerous victims suffered from chronic health issues or mental illnesses and lived in areas known as 'heat island, ' - regions prone to higher temperatures due to a lack of vegetation.

The province of Quebec was hit with highs of 86 F plus temperatures (30 C) beginning June 29 with accompanying humidex levels of between 104 F - 113 F (40 C -45 C).

The majority of the victims there were men aged 53-85 living in vulnerable conditions without access to air conditioning, she added.

Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois told a news conference Thursday none of the deaths occurred in a hospital or long-term care facility and that the people who died were already suffering from health problems.

So far, 18 of the 33 deaths have been in Montreal, the most populous city in the province, with other deaths in surrounding regions.

Across southern Quebec, public officials have been urging citizens to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses while, at the same time, keeping an eye on friends, family and neighbours.

The mayor of Montreal's Valerie Plante said police and firefighters were around 15 thousand people to make sure that they cope with heat alone.

Environment Canada expected temperatures to cool on Friday with much less extreme highs of 23C to 25C over the weekend.