The Canadian province of British Columbia has experienced nearly double the average deaths over the past several days of extreme heat, with temperatures reaching record highs, according to official reports.
At least 233 people died in the West coast province between Friday 25 June and Monday 28 June, some 100 above the average for a four-day period, with this figure expected to rise as more reports were filed, officials said.
“Since the onset of the heat wave late last week, the BC Coroners Service has experienced a significant increase in deaths reported where it is suspected that extreme heat has been contributory,” the BC Coroners Service said.
Coroners are now gathering information to determine the cause and manner of deaths and whether heat played a role, the statement said.
Environmental heat exposure can lead to severe or fatal results, particularly in older people, infants and young children and those with chronic illnesses, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said.
Lytton, a town in central British Columbia some 200km north of Vancouver, reported a temperature of 46.6°C (115.88°F) on Sunday.
The heat over western parts of Canada and the US has been caused by a dome of static high-pressure hot air stretching from California to the Arctic territories. Temperatures have been easing in coastal areas but there is little immediate respite for inland regions.
Significantly, prior to Sunday, recorded temperatures in Canada had never passed 45C.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan said the hottest week the province had ever experienced had led to “disastrous consequences for families and for communities”.
The number of heat-related fatalities is likely to rise as some areas say they have responded to sudden death incidents but have yet to collate the numbers.
In Vancouver alone, heat is believed to have been a contributing factor in the unexpected deaths of 65 people since Friday.
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