OHS Canada Magazine

B.C. coroner says 719 deaths in a week during heat wave, but number could jump


VICTORIA — British Columbia’s chief coroner says 719 sudden and unexpected deaths have been reported in the province during the historic heat wave, and that number over a seven-day period is unprecedented.

Lisa Lapointe says the number of fatalities is three times more than what would normally occur during the same period.

She says the extreme weather is believed to be a significant contributing factor in the jump in deaths, but the number is expected to increase as more information is compiled.

Lapointe has said extra coroners have been working in the field and many of the people who were found dead were elderly and living alone without air conditioning.

Lytton set a Canadian heat record this week for the third day in a row, reaching 49.6 C the day before residents were ordered to evacuate within minutes due to a raging out-of-control wildfire.

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Lapointe has said that while some parts of the province typically experience high temperatures during summer, those living in urban areas were caught unprepared when the mercury topped 30 C in Vancouver, for example, before returning to more typical weather.

“Today, the coroners service is seeing a downward trend from the number of deaths reported over the past few days, and we are hopeful this trend will continue,” she said Friday.

“Whenever possible, people are encouraged to visit cooler environments such as cooling centres, malls, libraries and other air-conditioned community spaces for essential respite from the effects of severe heat.”