At least 82 people have been hospitalized since Wednesday in Montreal and Laval after being exposed to carbon monoxide, as hundreds of thousands of people across Quebec remain without electricity due to this week’s fierce ice storm.
The rise in 911 calls related to the dangerous, odourless gas is prompting paramedics to urge people not to use outdoor appliances like BBQs or generators inside while they wait for the power to come back on.
Benjamin Dansereau, a spokesperson for Urgences-santé, said Friday that a total of 103 people have been assessed for carbon monoxide poisoning since the storm.
He said the number of calls for service in both cities was 40 as of Friday night, meaning families and groups of people are being assessed at one time. None of the patients were in critical condition.
There were no reported deaths in these two areas, however, a 75-year-old man in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac, a city northwest of Montreal, died from carbon monoxide poisoning, police said. Insp. Jean-Philippe Labbé told CTV News that the man had been using a diesel-powered generator in his garage.
Police said the man’s wife found him unconscious Thursday night and that he was sent to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
The Montreal public health department is advising people to be careful when trying to keep warm in their homes as they wait for the power to come back on.
“These intoxications put pressure on the emergency rooms, some of which have an occupancy rate exceeding 200 per cent,” said Simon Bilodeau, head of public health’s emergency measures office.
“This is an exceptional situation .. I’ve never seen so many cases reported at the same time.”
If people decide to use generators, public health urges people to use them outside in a ventilated area and away from doors and windows.
As of 6 p.m., the number of Quebec households without power fell to 385,323, with 230,368 customers in Montreal still in the dark.
HOW TO PREVENT CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
The City of Montreal shared carbon monoxide prevention tips in the context of the power outages.
- Leave your outdoor appliances outside. This includes generators, camping appliances, and propane or charcoal-fuelled devices.
- When using a generator, place it outdoors, in a well-ventilated location, and make sure to point the exhaust pipe away from windows and openings.
- Keep constant fresh air supply in your home if you are using fuel-burning appliances.
- Make sure the exhaust pipes of these appliances are unobstructed.
- However, in the event of a power outage of more than 3 hours in your building, you are allowed to use your fireplace or stove, whether it is certified or not.
If you believe you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, the city recommends people:
- Go outside.
- Leave the door open for ventilation as you exit the premises.
- Dial le 9-1-1.
- Wait for a firefighter to authorize your return indoors.
- Watch out for any symptoms that family members may experience.
- Avoid flames and sparks.
- Don’t smoke.
- Don’t use any devices near the leak, even a cell phone or a light switch. Static electricity could cause a spark.
- Leave the building or if you are already outside, move away from the leak.
- In case of emergency call 911.
With files from The Canadian Press