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Montreal seniors to be shuttled to malls as planned power outage going ahead during heat wave

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A seniors home in Montreal's West Island will have to shuttle most of its residents to nearby shopping centres to stay cool in the middle of a blistering heat wave after Hydro-Quebec refused to postpone a planned power outage in the area.

On Wednesday, the power will be cut to Le Wellesley residence in the Pointe-Claire suburb and more than 1,000 other customers beginning at 7 a.m. so hydro crews can replace a nearby transformer. The building has a generator but it doesn't keep the air conditioning running.

General Manager Voula Kollias asked the Crown corporation to delay the outage out of concern for the seniors living there, but Hydro-Quebec said no because it's a "major and extensive" job that involves too many teams and cancelling would have a "significant monetary impact on them."

Montreal and surrounding areas are under a heat warning from Environment and Climate Change Canada for multiple days this week. The forecast for Wednesday calls for a high of 34 C, but with the humidity it will feel more like 44.

"It does sit a bit heavy with us knowing that it's going to be super warm in here tomorrow. We'll do what we can and … as long as we stay vigilant, keep watching, I'm hoping for no emergencies," Kollias told CTV News.

Seniors who can leave their room will be put on shuttle buses to be taken to the Fairview Mall, Wal-Mart and other indoor locations with air conditioning, she said. However, some residents are not mobile and will have to be kept cool by staff in their rooms.

"We can give them liquids, but we can't really move them. How do you cool somebody down for eight hours? So it's a little concerning," Kollias said.

Hydro-Quebec says the work near the intersection of Saint-Jean and Hymus boulevards is important and involves replacing insulators, disconnectors and other network components. Doing it now will prevent longer outages, particularly during extreme heat when demand for electricity is high, said spokesperson Gabrielle Leblanc. 

The work was originally set to take place from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. but Leblanc said they have decided to start the work earlier — at 7 a.m. — and add more crews to allow them to finish at around 1 p.m.

"The work that needs to be done in Pointe-Claire requires the work of different crews simultaneously on a long stretch of land so it's really hard to coordinate and to postpone," Leblanc said. "That work is crucial to make sure that the quality of service in Pointe-Claire is optimal."

Montreal public health is urging residents to take extra precautions this week during the high temperatures and to check in on loved ones and neighbours, especially those who live alone

With files from CTV Montreal's Genevieve Beauchemin

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