Canada: Nearly 500 people have died in five days in the westernmost province of Canada, according to authorities, as record-breaking temperatures cause significant worries for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly.
British Columbia’s top coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said on Wednesday afternoon that the BC Coroners Service received at least 486 reports of fatalities between Friday and Wednesday afternoon, a figure she described as preliminary and likely to rise.
According to Lapointe, the fatalities reflect a 195 percent rise above the 165 deaths that would usually occur in the province during a five-day period.
“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.”
As a so-called “heat dome” — a meteorological phenomenon that traps hot air – fell over the country’s west coast, as well as the Pacific Northwest of the United States, temperatures in BC and other Canadian provinces and territories skyrocketed.
“It’s like a lid or a top, and nothing can get in, the weather can’t get in to remove that heat, it just builds,” Dave Phillips, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, told CTV’s Your Morning news program.
Climate change, according to experts, also had a role in record-breaking temperatures. Lytton, a town in central British Columbia, set three new Canadian high-temperature records this week, the latest being 49.6°C (121.28°F) on Tuesday.
Since the heatwave started on Friday, Metro Vancouver Police officers have reacted to more than 65 unexpected fatalities, while police in Burnaby and Surrey, both in the greater Vancouver region, has also recorded dozens of sudden deaths. Many of the victims were older individuals, according to police.
“The vast majority of these cases are related to the heat,” Vancouver police Sergeant Steve Addison said in a statement. “We’ve never seen anything like this, and it breaks our hearts. If you have an elderly or vulnerable family member, please give them a call or stop by to check on them.”
The Greater Vancouver Area is still under a heat advisory, but Environment Canada says the heat will “become less intense” beginning Wednesday, but temperatures will likely remain unusually high for the remainder of the week.
Environment Canada advised people to keep hydrated and stay indoors, as well as to check on elderly relatives and neighbors.
According to meteorologist Doug Gillham, the severe heat is anticipated to spread throughout the nation on Thursday, with high-temperature records possible in Kelowna, British Columbia; Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta; and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
“The hot weather will extend all the way to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut,” Gillham said in a post on The Weather Network website.