At least 486 people died suddenly over the past five days during B.C.’s record-breaking heat wave, almost three times the usual number, the provincial coroners service said Wednesday.
Roughly 165 sudden deaths would normally occur in the province over that period. The new tally accounts for deaths between Friday and 1 p.m. PT Wednesday, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe 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,” she said.
Lapointe said the 486 number is preliminary and will increase as coroners enter other death reports into the agency’s system.
Coroners have been delayed in responding to scenes due to a surge in sudden deaths in some areas, Lapointe said.
She said the agency has reallocated resources and is working to minimize wait times.
“It is important we do not lose sight of the fact that each reported death is a person with a family and people who cared about them,” she said.
“Once again, I extend my heartfelt condolences to anyone who has lost a loved one during this very difficult time.”
Lapointe said an updated tally will be provided Friday.