Coroners Service reports 'unprecedented' spike in sudden deaths during heatwave

·2 min read

The B.C. Coroners Service says at least 486 sudden and unexpected deaths have been reported across the province since last Friday, and suspects they are related to the unprecedented heatwave that has pushed temperatures into the high 30s and 40s.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says it’s too early for the deaths to be solely attributed to the heatwave, with detailed reports yet to be finalized by coroners across the province.

Numbers by individual health regions have not been released in light of that, with detailed numbers expected Friday.

“It is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather B.C. has experienced and continues to impact many parts of our province,” Lapointe said in a statement.

She added the number is preliminary and will increase as coroners enter death reports into their system. In Burnaby, police responded to 34 deaths between Monday and Tuesday. Another 65 were reported in Vancouver - linking the heatwave as the cause.

Locally, Fort St. John RCMP say they haven’t experienced any heat-related medical or death issues like the Lower Mainland, responding only to two separate calls of dogs being left in a hot vehicle. However, calls for service are up by 30 files compared to last week, with 269 calls for service from June 23 to 29.

Southbound, Dawson Creek Staff Sgt. Damon Werrell says officers attended several heatwave related calls, with only one death possibly caused by the dangerous temperatures.

“I don’t have the numbers off hand but certainly can say that we have attended several calls relating to the heat, one of which may or may not have contributed to a death this morning – I cannot confirm if the death was in fact a result of the heat – only the coroner’s office can confirm that,” wrote Werrell.

Temperatures are forecast to reach 36 degrees today in the B.C. Peace, with a 40% chance of showers and risk of a thunderstorm this afternoon.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for the B.C. Peace calling for the potential of severe thunderstorms with very strong wind gusts, intense lightning and brief bursts of heavy rain.

The Canada Day forecast for Thursday calls for a high of 25 degrees with a 60% chance of showers or thunderstorms in the afternoon.

The weekend forecast calls for daytime highs of 26 and 22 on Friday and Saturday.

tsummer@ahnfsj.ca

Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News

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