Nearly 600 British Columbians died from extreme heat this summer: BC Coroners Service

Nearly 600 British Columbians died from extreme heat this summer: BC Coroners Service

British Columbia has announced that nearly 600 people died this past summer as a result of extreme heat, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service.

Multiple heat-related deaths were recorded in communities, with the data revealing that at least 595 residents across the province died amid record-breaking heat and sustained high temperatures.

The BC Coroners Service says it considers a death heat-related when the localized environment or the body temperature is consistent with hyperthermia or there is no direct temperature at the time of death, but there is “evidence to support that heat had a significant causal effect on the death.”

The Province says that 69 per cent of the deaths recorded were individuals aged 70 or older and no heat-related deaths among children were reported.

The largest number of deaths took place between June 25 and July 1, 2021, when a heat-dome weather event resulted in numerous temperature records being set throughout the province. According to the BC Coroners Service, at least 526 deaths occurred during this event, and several of the deaths recorded in the days and weeks following were due to injuries sustained during the heat-dome period.

The data also shows that nearly three-quarters of the deaths recorded between June 25 and July 1 occurred in either the Fraser (273) or Vancouver Coastal (120) health authority regions.

“The BC Coroners Service is committed to gathering as much information as possible about each of these deaths to inform future, evidence-based prevention efforts,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “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.”

The BC Coroners Service says it expects to have completed individual investigations of each of the 595 heat-related deaths by early 2022. At that time, the service will convene a death review panel consisting of subject-matter experts who will create recommendations intended to prevent similar deaths.

The findings of the panel are expected to be publicly released in late spring 2022.

“While we expect the findings of the death review will significantly contribute to efforts to increase public safety, we must take steps to prepare for future extreme weather events now,” Lapointe said. “The effects of climate change are both real and unpredictable. Having a plan to regularly check in with loved ones who live alone, being aware of cooler and air-conditioned areas in your neighbourhood, and heeding early warnings about extreme weather are simple steps that will help ensure we are all properly prepared and safe.”

The Province notes that the highest number of deaths recorded was on June 28 (131 deaths) and June 29 (231 deaths).


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