595 people were killed by heat in B.C. this summer, new figures from coroner show

November 1, 2021
595 people were killed by heat in B.C. this summer, new figures from coroner show

Nearly 600 people were killed by extreme temperatures in B.C. over the summer, according to new data from the provincial coroners’ service.

New figures released Monday said 595 people died from the heat between June 18 and Aug. 12. The majority of those deaths — 526 — happened during the “heat dome” that created unrelenting temperatures as high as 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 in 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 city, 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, like a business or community centre.

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.

More to come.

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