Record heat wave may have killed 500 people in western Canada

July 3, 2021 - 21:10

Nearly 500 people may have been killed by record-breaking temperatures in Canada’s westernmost province, as officials warn the grim toll from “heat dome” could rise again as more deaths are reported.

On Friday, British Columbia’s chief coroner said that 719 “sudden and unexpected deaths” had been reported over the past week – triple the number during a similar period in a typical year.

“We are releasing this information as it is believed likely the extreme weather BC has experienced in the past week is a significant contributing factor to the increased number of deaths,” the chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said in a statement.

The coroner’s office said it would typically expect close to 230 deaths in a similar period.

The overall total will probably rise after more communities provide data, but Lapointe said the province has seen a promising downward trend in recent days as the heat ebbs and shifts eastward.

Officials have cautioned it will probably take months to determine the exact cause of death for hundreds of residents, but they say heat played a significant role in the surge in fatalities, especially among seniors in the province.

“Many of the deaths experienced over the past week were among older individuals living alone in private residences with minimal ventilation,” Lapointe said in her statement.

According to Guardian in a region of the country accustomed to mild summer temperatures, communities were forced to scramble to find ways to help vulnerable residents stay safe amid blistering temperatures.
But regional officials are facing growing questions over their response to the crisis.

On Thursday, the head of the province’s emergency health service apologized after residents were made to wait hours for ambulances during the worst of the heatwave.

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