The BC Coroners Service has updated the number of deaths reported between June 25 and July 1 — numbers suspected to be connected to the record-breaking extreme heat across the province.
The coroners service is now reporting 808 people across B.C. died between June 25 and July 1, up 31 deaths from the 777 it listed in early July.
The coroners service saw an unprecedented number of deaths over the five-day period.
Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said coroners were caught off guard and there were delays in reaching coroners and coroners responding to scenes of reported deaths, leading to a backlog investigating and entering deaths into the agency’s reporting system.
The revised number of deaths (808) recorded across B.C. on each of those five days are as follows:
• June 25: 55 deaths
• June 26: 46 deaths
• June 27: 56 deaths
• June 28: 147 deaths
• June 29: 300 deaths
• June 30: 124 deaths
• July 1: 80 deaths
That same five-day period saw 179 sudden deaths in 2016, 205 deaths in 2018, 193 deaths in 2018, 181 deaths in 2019 and 232 deaths in 2020.
The updated numbers for 2021 show 122 of the deaths occurred within Interior Health — making up about 15 per cent of recorded deaths, up from 14 per cent in the previous numbers.
There were 59 sudden deaths in Interior Health between June 25 and July 1 in 2020. Interior Health averaged in the mid-40s for deaths between June 25 and July 1 between 2016 and 2019.
In Kamloops, the RCMP said it responded to six sudden deaths between June 25 and June 30. During that same period in 2020, it responded to three such deaths. Between June 25 and June 29, Kamloops Mounties received 43 calls to check the well-being of individuals, with some of the calls directly related to hot weather conditions. During the same period in 2020, there were 34 such calls. On June 30, Kamloops set an all-time temperature record when the mercury hit 47.3 C.
Of B.C.’s five health authorities, Fraser Health experienced the most deaths across the five-day period in 2021, with 353, up from a previously recorded 344.
Updated data for Vancouver Coastal Health showed 202 sudden deaths, up from 193, along with 98 on Island Health and 33 in Northern Health, each up one recorded death from the previous numbers.
It’s not clear yet how many of the 2021 deaths across B.C. are heat-related as that specific data for the five-day period this year is not yet available, according to statistics released online by the BC Coroners Service. Nor does data on the webpage for deaths between 2016 to 2020 specify if they were all heat-related deaths.
The coroners service is releasing the five-day data, however, because it is believed likely the extreme heat B.C. experienced was a significant contributing factor to the increased number of deaths, which impacted the Lower Mainland the most.
Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week