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Nearly 600 people died due to summer heat waves: BC Coroners Service

Vast majority occurred during June 25 to July 1 heat dome
Wildfire smoke fills the air and obstructs the view of the mountains as people continue to take part in outdoor activities in Sicamous B.C., on Thursday July 29, 2021. British Columbia is gearing up to respond to another heat wave by taking several steps including opening civic centres that would otherwise be closed so people can escape to a cool place if they lack air conditioning. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Nearly 600 people died due to extreme heat this past summer, the BC Coroners Service reported Monday (Nov. 1).

The coroners service said that 595 people died between June 18 and Aug. 12, with the largest number of heat deaths – 526, or 88 per cent – occurring between June 25 and July 1. The deadliest days took place on June 29 with 231 deaths and June 28 with 131.

Monday’s report reveals a death toll higher than one released by the BC Coroners Service and the province at the end of July, when 569 people were reported to have died of heat-related reasons from June 20 to July 29.

Of the deaths recorded in the last week of June, nearly three-quarters happened in the Lower Mainland. Vancouver Coastal Health saw 120 deaths, while Fraser Health saw 273 deaths.

Across B.C., the death rate from the extreme heat was 10.1 per 100,000 residents, with people ages 70 and older accounting for 69 per cent of total fatalities. No one under the age of 19 died.

The deadliest areas were in Fraser North with a death rate of 17.4 per 100,0000, Fraser East at 15.1 per 100,000 and Vancouver at 13.7 per 100,000. Nearly all deaths – 96 per cent - occurred in a “residential setting.”

Deaths were split mostly evenly by gender, with 51 per cent of those who passed away being female and 49 per cent being male.

The BC Coroners Service said that it expects to complete individual investigations into each of the 595 deaths by early 2022, at which time a death review panel will release recommendations on how to prevent future heat-related fatalities.

“The BC Coroners Service is committed to gathering as much information as possible about each of these deaths to inform future, evidence-based prevention efforts” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “I extend my sincere condolences to all of those who lost a loved one as a result of last summer’s unprecedented heat dome. By identifying patterns and factors in the tragic deaths that occurred unexpectedly last summer, our province will be in a better position to prevent future similar tragedies.”

READ MORE: Heat wave marked by unusually high night time temperatures

READ MORE: Horgan defends province’s efforts to prevent deaths in heat wave as fatalities spike


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