The BC Coroners Service has announced the province has seen an unprecedented number of deaths reported over the last five days.
According to Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner with the BC Coroners Service, between Friday and 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 30, at least 486 sudden and unexpected deaths were reported across the province.
“This number is preliminary and will increase as coroners enter death reports into our system,” said Lapointe in a statement. “The 486 deaths currently entered represent a 195 per cent increase over the approximately 165 deaths that would normally occur in the province over a five-day period.”
Lapointe suggests that it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat-related, however, officials believe the staggering increase correlates with the extreme weather.
“Coroners have been working around the clock alongside law enforcement, first responders and others ensuring we are able to respond to the needs of communities as expeditiously and efficiently as possible,” said Lapointe.
“Due to the much-greater-than-usual number of reported deaths in some areas, there have been instances where there have been delays in coroners responding to scenes of reported death. We have reallocated resources and are continuing to do everything within our power to minimize wait times.”
Over the past week, British Columbia has experienced record-setting temperatures and all-time highs.
On Vancouver Island, it was hot enough that schools stopped running, businesses were closed, and officials urged Islanders to take extra precautions.
The temperature at the Victoria International Airport hit a blistering 39.4 C — an all-time record.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s Gonzales Point hit 39.8 C, making it the hottest day ever recorded in Victoria and breaking the previous June 28 record of 30.5 C set back in 1995.
Elsewhere on Vancouver Island, the temperature in Port Alberni reached a staggering 42.7 degrees, according to Environment Canada data, making it the hottest temperature ever recorded not just in the community, but on Vancouver Island. Prior to Monday, Port Alberni’s hottest day on record was 41.7 degrees back in 1926 while the previous June 28 high in the city was 36.5 in 2015.
“As we continue to experience unusually high temperatures in the province, it is very important that we look out for our family, friends and neighbours – particularly those who live alone,” emphasized Lapointe on Wednesday.
“People can be overcome by the effects of extreme heat quickly and may not be aware of the danger. Please arrange regular check-ins with those who live alone, and encourage everyone you know to drink water, stay in the shade as much as possible and visit cooler environments whenever they can.”
An update on the numbers of sudden, unprecedented deaths is expected by Friday.