Historic heat wave is causing ‘significant’ increase in deaths: BC Coroners

CHEK
WatchThis unprecedented heat is proving to be deadly, and with climate change guaranteeing worse heat waves to come, are we prepared?
A person seen biking on June 28, 2021.

The historic heat gripping the Pacific Northwest is buckling sidewalks, causing mass snowmelt in the coastal mountains, and intense phytoplankton bloom in Vancouver Island waters.

But now, has taken a deadly turn.

“Yesterday we had 15 sudden deaths, and so far today we’ve had 19 sudden deaths we’ve responded to,” said Corporal Mike Kalanj of Burnaby RCMP.

The BC Coroner’s service reporting that more than a hundred deaths may be contributed to our extreme temperatures, and that number is only expected to grow.

“ÍžSince the onset of the heat wave late last week, the BC Coroners Service has experienced a significant increase in deaths reported where it is suspected that extreme heat has been contributory. The Coroners Service would normally receive approximately 130 reports of death over a four-day period. From Friday, June 25 through 3 p.m. on Monday, June 28, at least 233 deaths were reported,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner in a statement.

Police say many of the deaths were seniors with underlying health concerns and living without air conditioning.

Vancouver Island also seeing deadly results from the scorching weather. Saanich Police department says they responded to 5 sudden deaths over the weekend, Victoria Police responding to three, Oak Bay responding to none, West Shore RCMP didn’t respond to CHEK’s request for comment.

The premier coming under fire today for the province, being unprepared.

“Obviously in hindsight, we could have planned to do better and more. In this instance, the big lesson coming out of the past few days is climate change is not fiction. It is absolutely real,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan in a press conference announcing the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

The deadly heat swelling across the Pacific Northwest is part of what experts say is a heat dome, and get ready for more.

“It’s not to say extreme events didn’t always happen. It’s just that now we have them happening at a higher frequency, higher amplitude, and longer-lasting,” said Armel Castellan, an Environment Canada meteorologist.

With hotter, drier summers, in tandem with rising sea levels, droughts, and winter windstorms, local leaders say preparation is key.

“We have to have a plan, and a funded plan, so we’re not scrambling every time this happens, because this is the new normal,” said Victoria mayor Lisa Helps.

The issue right now, is all the immediate costs fall on municipalities.

“Climate change impacts at the local level, and local communities don’t have the resources through sheerly collecting property taxes,” said Helps.

For every dollar Canadians pay in taxes, eight cents go to our municipalities, something Mayor Helps says needs to change to deal with current and future climate change issues.

In the meantime, those with the means are doing everything they can to stay cool.

“Our condo does not have air conditioning, so we moved into a hotel so we could keep our baby cool,” said one couple with a young baby.

And they are not the only ones. Many victoria hotels saw a huge push for rooms with air conditioning.

“It was unexpectedly crazy busy, something that I’ve never experienced in my life,” said one worker at Victoria’s Best Western.

Finding a temporary refuge from the heat. One that could become the new norm in the future.

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Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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