Over 500 people died in B.C.’s late June heat wave

Adrian Dix, minister of health, speaks to the media about how the province prepared for a heat wave in August 2021. || B.C. government photo.
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The record-setting heat dome that settled over a large part of B.C. in late June claimed the lives of 526 British Columbians, according to updated data released by the BC Coroners Service.

There were 48 heat-related deaths recorded in the Island Health authority, including one person in their forties.

June 29 was the deadliest day of the heat event, accounting for 231 deaths, followed by June 28 with 131 deaths.

Nearly three-quarters of the fatalities recorded between June 25 and July 1 occurred in the Fraser (273) or Vancouver Coastal (120) health authority regions, according to the BC Coroners Service. People 70 and older accounted for 69 per cent of the deaths. No heat-related deaths among children were reported.

There were 595 heat-related deaths over the summer, according to the BC Coroners Service.

“I extend my sincere condolences to all of those who lost a loved one as a result of last summer’s unprecedented heat dome,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “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 considers a death heat-related when:

-the localized environment or the body temperature of a deceased person 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 BC Coroners Service said it expects to have completed individual investigations of each of the 595 heat-related deaths by early next year. At that time, the service will convene a death review panel consisting of 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, according to the BC Coroners Service.

“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.”

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