At least 595 British Columbians died over the summer of 2021 due to extreme heat, according to an updated report from the BC Coroners Service.
According to the report, the most deaths occurred between June 25 and July 1 as a heat dome weather event resulted in multiple record-setting temperatures across the province. 526 deaths occurred during this weather event, with several others in the days and weeks following due to heat-related injuries.
“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 Fraser (273 deaths) and Vancouver Coastal (120 deaths) health authority regions had three-quarters of the deaths recorded between June 25th and July 1st.
Province-wide, the death rate during this period was 10.1 per 100,000 residents. Additionally, 69% of deaths occurred in those 70 or older. No deaths were reported among children.
June 28th and 29th had recorded 131 and 231 deaths respectively.
According to BC Coroners Service officials, the agency anticipates completing individual investigations on each of the 595 heat-related deaths by early 2022. Once they are all completed, members will convene a death review panel to create recommendations intended to prevent similar deaths.
“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.”