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Hundreds of people have died in Canada as a heat wave shatters records.

Canada weather: Heat hits record 46.6C

Since Friday, police in the Vancouver region have responded to more than 130 sudden deaths. The majority were old or had underlying medical issues, with heat being a major role.

Temperatures in Canada set a new temperature record of 49.6 degrees Celsius (121.3 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday. The northwestern has also had record highs, as well as several fatalities.

Temperatures in western parts of Canada and the US have never passed 45C. British Columbia Premier John Horgan said the hottest week the province had ever experienced led to “disastrous consequences for families and communities”.

The number of heat-related deaths is likely to rise as some areas say they have responded to sudden death incidents but have yet to collate the numbers.

Vancouver police say they have never seen the volume of sudden deaths in such a short period of time. In Vancouver alone, heat is believed to have been a contributing factor in the unexpected deaths of 65 people since Friday. Dozens of officers have been redeployed in the city, while the increased volume of emergency calls has created a backlog.

How to ward off the heat

If your body hits 40C (104F) heat-stroke can set in, which requires urgent medical help. Danger signs include sweat stopping – feeling hot, but dry – and breathing difficulties. Drink water (and avoid diuretics like caffeine) – and don’t take your thirst as a guide, as you could still be dehydrating. Stay in the shade. Indoors if you can.

Limit travel to cooler parts of the day if possible.

Wear a hat, preferably with ventilation.