Sudden and unexpected deaths jumped three-fold during heat wave

Over the seven days from June 25 to Canada Day, 1,719 deaths were reported to the B.C. Coroners Service

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An unprecedented number of sudden and unexpected deaths were recorded throughout B.C. during the heat wave that smashed temperature records and sparked wildfires, including the one that razed Lytton and the one that threatened Kamloops.


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Over the seven days from June 25 to Canada Day, 1,719 deaths were reported to B.C. Coroners Service, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said on Friday afternoon.

“This number is preliminary and subject to increase as additional reported deaths are entered into our system,” Lapointe said. “The 1,719 deaths reported is three times more than what would normally occur in the province during the same period.”

The Coroners Service believes the extreme weather was a significant contributing factor for the huge spike in sudden and unexpected deaths.

Temperatures have dropped to more normal levels, in the low to mid 20s and into the teens overnight, for Metro Vancouver, according to Environment Canada, and unlike a week ago at this time, there are no weather alerts for Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley as of Friday afternoon.


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But heat warnings remain in effect for much of the rest of the province, including North and South Thompson, Okanagan, Similkameen, Kootenays, Fraser Canyon, Shuswap, Boundary, Elk Valley and Yoho.

A provincewide campfire ban remains in effect.

First responders scrambled all last week to respond to unprecedented numbers of heat-related health calls.

From June 25 to July 1, B.C. Emergency Health Services staff responded to 790 heat-related calls in B.C., bringing the total for June to 824 heat-related calls.

There were 14 such calls in June, 2020.

Greg Schalk, public safety director and fire chief with the city of North Vancouver, said his crews would normally respond to 10 calls in a 24-hour period, but during the heat wave that number was more than 30.


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“It was a three-fold increase in calls for assistance,” Schalk said. “It’s a trying time for all first responders.

“The only thing in terms of call volumes that compares to this would be a wind storm, but that’s totally different circumstances, dealing with lines down.

“This is the highest percentage of medical calls I’ve experienced.”

By Friday, the Coroners Service was seeing a downward trend in the number of deaths reported.

“We are hopeful this trend will continue,” Lapointe said.

“Some parts of the province are continuing to experience unusually high temperatures, and it remains important that we all take extra care to avoid the dangerous effects of severe heat. Please look out for family, friends and neighbours, particularly those who live alone.”

People are encouraged to visit cooling centres, malls, libraries and other community spaces with AC. Many of the deaths in the past week were older people living alone in private residences with minimal ventilation.

The provincial government has tips online on how to stay cool, as does the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.



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