595 people were killed by heat in B.C. this summer

Nearly 600 people died due to extreme temperatures in British Columbia over the summer, according to new data from the provincial coroners’ service.

New figures released Monday said the deaths of 595 people between June 18 and Aug. 12 were related to the heat. The majority of those deaths — 526 — happened during the “heat dome” that created temperatures above 40 C from late June to early July.

The service said 231 people died in a single day on June 29 — nearly 10 people every hour.

The staggering tally comes as health-care advocates, first responders and politicians try to determine what kind of action — or inaction — might have contributed to the number of people who died as a result of the incessant heat.

“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,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe wrote in a statement Monday.

99% died at home or hotel 

The data released Monday presents a clearer picture of the people who died and where they lived in B.C.

Nearly 70 per cent of those who died were over the age of 70. More than half lived in the Fraser Health Authority area, while roughly a quarter lived in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby saw the highest numbers of deaths by town, with 99, 67 and 63, respectively.

Ninety-nine per cent of people died after overheating inside a home or hotel. The remainder died after being in the heat outside or in a public building, such as a business or community centre.

A paramedic is pictured outside of St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on June 30, during the record-breaking heat. (Ben Nelms)

The percentage of men to women was similar, though slightly more women died. No children died.

Early analysis by climate groups in July found the heat wave would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change. In the weeks since, provincial health leaders acknowledged the critical need for B.C. to adapt to changing climate conditions and become less vulnerable to its deadly effects.

In total, more than 800 sudden deaths were reported to the coroner between June 25 and July 1.

Monday’s data confirms 526 of those deaths were a direct result of extreme temperatures during the heat dome.

The coroner uses two criteria to classify a death as heat related, the statement explained: either the person’s environment or body temperature is consistent with hyperthermia, or there is evidence to support that heat would have been a significant factor in their death, such as medical history.

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.