Death rate soars as Canada's British Columbia suffers 'extreme heat'

People are seen at a beach during a heat wave in Vancouver on June 27, 2021.
People are seen at a beach during a heat wave in Vancouver on June 27, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

VANCOUVER (REUTERS) - The Canadian province of British Columbia suffered nearly double the average deaths as temperatures hit a record high of 46.6 deg C during the past four days of "extreme heat", officials said on Tuesday (June 29).

At least 233 people died in the West coast province between Friday and Monday, about 100 more than the average for a four-day period, and the number was 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," BC Coroners Service said on Monday.

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 in a statement.

British Columbia closed schools and universities on Monday as temperatures soared.

Lytton, a town in central British Columbia roughly 200km north of Vancouver, reported a temperature of 46.6 deg C on Sunday.

Canada is widely known for its brutal winter and snows, and prior to the weekend the historical high in Canada was 45 deg C, set in Saskatchewan in 1937, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, which is more accustomed to long bouts of rain than sun, resulted from a high pressure system that was not moving, said Dr Greg Flato, a senior research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada based in Victoria.