Deaths during B.C. heat wave climb past 800

The number of deaths reported during a record-breaking heat wave in B.C. three weeks ago has climbed to 808 — 610 more than average, according to preliminary data from the B.C. Coroners Service.

Over the past five years, there has been an average of 198 deaths recorded over the seven days from June 25 to July 1.

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None of the deaths has been confirmed as heat-related and investigators are still working to establish how and why so many more people died than in previous years, the B.C. Coroners Service said.

Death by heat is notoriously hard to track as rising temperatures can trigger chronic illnesses or get recorded as heart or kidney failure.

However, last week, B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said she suspects at least a portion of the spike in deaths to be heat related. Many of those who died were found alone in poorly ventilated apartments as a “heat dome” blanketed much of the province.

“This, frankly, took many of us off guard,” she said. “I think it’s very likely many of us misunderstood the extreme risk.”

Ninety-eight deaths were recorded in the Island Health region, more than twice the five-year average of about 42 deaths in the same period.

The Fraser Health region saw the biggest spikes in deaths, with 353 reported — seven times the five-year average of 50.

Vancouver Coastal Health saw 202 deaths, nearly 4.5 times the previous five-year average, Interior Health had 122, about 2.6 times higher than average, and Northern Health had 33, about 2.2 times higher than average.

— With a file from the Times Colonist

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