Hundreds of deaths linked to historic heat wave in western Canada

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June 30 (UPI) — More than 230 people in the Western Canadian province of British Colombia died last weekend amid an historic heat wave, authorities said.

Lisa Lapointe, the chief coroner for the province, said in a statement Tuesday that at least 233 people have died from the heat between Friday and Monday.

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“Since the onset of the heat wave late last week, the B.C. Coroners Service has experienced a significant increase in deaths reported where it is suspected that extreme heat has been contributory,” Lapointe said.

Lapointe said the office usually receives about 130 deaths over a four-day period, and added that she expects the death toll to rise.

“Environmental heat exposure can lead to severe or fatal results, particularly in older people, infants and young children and those with chronic illnesses,” she said.

Police in Vancouver called on residents to check on loved ones because resources are depleted due to the rise in heat-related deaths.

“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,” said Vancouver Police Department Sgt. Steve Addison in a statement. “Our officers are stretched thin, but we’re still doing everything we can to keep people safe.”

E-Comm 9-1-1, the province’s largest emergency communications center, said it responded to nearly 8,000 calls Saturday and more than 7,300 on Sunday — record breaking numbers.

“This is a historic increase of approx. 55% compared to a normal weekend in June,” it said in a statement.

The deaths occurred as the province and the Pacific Northwest experiences a record-breaking heat wave.

The province’s official weather and climate source, Environment and Climate Change Canada Weather British Columbia, has reported three straight days or record breaking temperatures.

“Words cannot describe this historic event,” it said on Twitter.

On Monday, 59 temperature records were broken in the province, 43 of which set all-time records, it said Tuesday.

The service added that Lytton has broken the all-time Canadian heat record three days in a row and the 121.1 degrees Fahrenheit it reached Tuesday is hotter than Las Vegas’ all-time record high of 117 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We’ve never seen anything like this, and it breaks our hearts,” Addison said. “If you have an elderly or vulnerable family member, please give them a call or stop by to check on them.”

In Burnaby, authorities responded to more than 25 deaths where heat is believed to have been a contributing factor in the past 24 hours, the Royal Canada Mounted Police said in a statement.

In Surrey, which borders Burnaby to the south, the RCMP said it was deploying more officers “following an unprecedented number of sudden deaths over the past two days.”

“Please check in on your loved ones, your neighbors, friends who may be vulnerable during this heat,” the Surrey RCMP said in a tweet.