A three-year-old Toronto boy died this afternoon after he wandered away from home in the middle of the night. The boy spent six hours exposed to the elements before rescuers found him behind a nearby home and rushed him to the hospital. Temperatures in Toronto dipped to -2°F this morning with a wind chill of -21°F.

The CBC reports that Elijah Marsh managed to wander away from his family's apartment building shortly after 4:00 AM wearing "nothing but a t-shirt, diaper, and boots." His family reported him missing when they woke up around 7:30 AM, and three hours later, rescuers found the boy behind an air conditioning unit in the backyard of a home two blocks away. Unfortunately, medical teams were not able to save Marsh, and he passed away several hours later.

The boy's death is the latest in a string of cold-related fatalities associated with the brutal low temperatures gripping much of the United States and Canada this week.

Police found a 77-year-old man dead on the Coney Island boardwalk on Tuesday morning after he succumbed to the frigid temperatures. A Cicero, Illinois, man who was found unresponsive on a sidewalk died in a local hospital on Tuesday from the combined effects of "acute alcohol toxicity and cold exposure," becoming the twentieth person in Cook County to die as a result of the cold this winter. In Niagara Falls, New York, on Wednesday, relatives found the "completely frozen" body of a woman who left home to take a walk on Saturday evening and never returned.

Extreme cold weather kills more than 700 people each year in the United States, many of whom are homeless or cannot afford luxuries we take for granted, such as indoor heat or sufficiently warm clothing. Most major cities around the United States and Canada open public warming centers for those who do not have access to warmth during life-threatening cold spells.

[Image: Sam Javanrouh via Flickr | Correction: Elijah's surname is Marsh, not "March" as originally reported by the CBC.]

You can follow the author on Twitter or send him an email.