Authorities say nearly 500 people have died in Canada’s westernmost province across five days, as record-breaking temperatures raise serious concerns for vulnerable groups, including the elderly.
British Columbia’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said on Wednesday afternoon that the BC Coroners Service received at least 486 reports of deaths between Friday and Wednesday afternoon – a total she said was preliminary and expected to increase.
The fatalities represent a 195 percent increase from the approximately 165 deaths that would normally occur in the province across a five-day period, Lapointe said.
“The last five days in British Columbia have seen an unprecedented number of deaths reported to the BC Coroners Service,” she said in a statement.
“While it is too early to say with certainty how many of these deaths are heat related, it is believed likely that the significant increase in deaths reported is attributable to the extreme weather B.C. has experienced and continues to impact many parts of our province.”
Temperatures have soared in BC and other Canadian provinces and territories as a so-called “heat dome” – a weather system that traps in hot air – descended on the country’s west coast, as well as in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.