Death toll rises in British Columbia amid heat wave in western Canada
Hundreds of deaths in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon have been linked to a heat wave that roasted the Pacific Northwest for days and broke Canadian heat records, sending hundreds of thousands of people rush to get relief.
Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner for British Columbia, said 486 deaths were reported there between Friday and Wednesday afternoon – a period during which around 165 deaths would normally be documented. Deaths are expected to increase, she said.
“While it is too early to say for sure how many of these deaths are heat-related, it is likely that the significant increase in reported deaths is attributable to the extreme weather conditions that BC has experienced,” a- she declared.
The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office on Wednesday attributed at least 63 deaths in five days to the sweltering heat of that state, including 45 in Multnomah County, which includes Portland – where temperatures have reached an all-time high of 116 degrees Fahrenheit.
In Washington, officials reported nearly a dozen lives lost to hyperthermia on Wednesday alone in King County, which includes Seattle; two heat-related deaths were reported there the day before.
In Snohomish County, Wash., At least three people have died this week from heat stroke, according to the medical examiner’s office, which added that investigations are underway into at least two more suspected heat-related deaths. .
“This was a real health crisis which highlighted how deadly an extreme heat wave can be, especially for otherwise vulnerable people,” said Dr Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County health official. , in a press release. “I know many people in the county cared about each other and I am deeply saddened by this first death toll.”
This year, a study found that 37% of heat-related deaths could be linked to climate change. Global warming has raised baseline temperatures by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit on average since 1900, experts say.
“Climate change is increasing the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves,” said Kristie Ebi, professor at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington. “When you look at this heat wave, it’s so out of the ordinary. “
In Canada, John Horgan, the premier of British Columbia, said on Tuesday that “the big lesson to be learned from the last few days is that the climate crisis is not a fiction.”
The heat wave in Canada has presented an additional public health problem even as authorities continue to grapple with the challenge of the coronavirus and Canadians are just beginning to enjoy some of the pleasures of summer as restrictions s ‘relax.
On Tuesday, for the third day in a row, British Columbia broke its previous record for extreme heat; the temperature in Lytton, a small town in the province, climbed to just over 121 degrees.
Such is the heat that some Vancouverites have fried eggs on their patios. Others have swapped their stuffy homes for air-conditioned hotels or moved their home offices to shady spots in their gardens.
As the suffocating heat hits much of western North America, experts worry about human safety and power outages.
- Western Canada: Canada broke a national heat record on June 27, when the temperature in a small town in British Columbia hit nearly 116 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking an 84-year-old record of almost 3 degrees, with the weather dangerously low. hot which should continue for several days. .
- Pacific Northwest United States: A thermal dome has enveloped the region, bringing temperatures to extreme levels – with temperatures well above 100 degrees – and creating dangerous conditions in a part of the country unaccustomed to oppressive summer conditions or air conditioning.
- Severe drought: Much of the western half of the United States is in the grip of a severe drought of historic proportions. Conditions are especially bad in California and the Southwest, but the drought is spreading across the Pacific Northwest, much of the Intermountain West, and even the northern plains. Extreme heat worsens dry conditions.
- Growing energy shortages: Power outages have increased by more than 60% since 2015, even as climate change has worsened heat waves, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
- Reference temperatures are increasing: New benchmarks for temperature, rain, snow and other weather events reveal how the climate has changed in the United States. One point to remember, the country is getting hotter and hotter.
Scorching temperatures have also put crops of BC farmers at risk, causing searing lettuce and raspberries to wilt.
Capturing the national vibe, Lyle Torgerson posted a video on Twitter Sunday, showing a bear and two cubs bathing in its back pool in Coquitlam, B.C. “The heat is unbearable, but if you take a quick dip you’ll survive,” he told The New York Times in an Instagram post.
The Vancouver Police Department has sent dozens of additional officers to help deal with the situation, he said in a statement. While police typically deal with three to four sudden deaths per day, on average, the department said it has responded to more than 98 such calls since Friday, including 53 on Tuesday.
He also said that two-thirds of the victims are aged 70 and over.
“We’ve never seen anything like it, and it breaks our hearts,” Sergeant Steve Addison said in a statement Tuesday, noting that the extreme heat appears to be a contributing factor in most cases.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Surrey, a municipality in the greater Vancouver area, said in an email it had responded to 35 sudden deaths in 24 hours.
The British Columbia Forest Fire Department was also grappling with the effects of the heat wave, struggling with overheated helicopter engines as it tried to contain severe forest fires. One was about 5,700 acres on Tuesday night in Sparks Lake, about five hours northeast of Vancouver.
Before this week’s record heat, the last time Canada saw mercury reach similar heights was on July 5, 1937, when the temperature reached 113 degrees in rural Saskatchewan.
Winston Choi Schagrin contributed reports.