Police in Metro Vancouver say there were dozens of reports of sudden deaths in just a few days in three major cities, with heat expected to be a factor in many.
Police in Vancouver have seen the highest number of calls. In a news release Tuesday, a police department spokesperson said the city has seen 65 sudden deaths since the heat wave began on Friday.
“Today alone, officers had responded to 20 sudden deaths as of 1:45 p.m. with more than a dozen others waiting for police to be dispatched,” Sgt. Steve Addison said.
“The vast majority of these cases are related to the heat. We’ve never seen anything like this, and it breaks our heart.”
Similarly, the Burnaby RCMP said they received 25 calls during a record-breaking heat wave. The temperature is believed to be a contributing factor in the majority of the deaths, they said in a statement Tuesday.
Cpl. Mike Kalanj said many of those who died were seniors.
“Our members are finding that when they’re going to these calls, these apartments are over 30 degrees,” he said. “Not everyone has working air conditioning, and these are the people we need to make sure we’re checking up on, several times a day if you can.”
In an update later, Mounties said 15 sudden death calls were made the day before, and that 19 had been made so far on Tuesday.
The latest information brings the total to 34 calls made in the city over two days.
Surrey RCMP told us there has also been a higher than average number of sudden deaths in their city since the beginning of the extreme heat wave.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Mounties said they have responded to 13 deaths so far, preceded by 22 on Monday.
Constable Sarbjit Sangha added while the coroner has not confirmed the cause of death in these cases, a majority are older people.
“The large number of these sudden deaths involve seniors between the ages of 92 to 70,” she said. “The youngest person that we had is a 44 year old.”
In a news release, BC’s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said since late last week, there has been a significant increase in deaths reported where extreme heat is a suspected factor.
“The Coroners Service would normally receive approximately 130 reports of death over a four-day period. From Friday, June 25 through 3 p.m. on Monday, June 28, at least 233 deaths were reported,” she said. “This number will increase as data continues to be updated.”
Premier John Horgan was asked if the province did enough to get the word out about the potentially dangerous temperatures.
“The public was acutely aware that we had a heat problem, and we were doing our best to try to break through all of the other noise to encourage people to take steps to protect themselves,” he said. “But it was apparent to everyone who walked out doors that we were in an unprecedented heat wave, and again, there’s a level of personal responsibility.”
The Vancouver Police department said officers are being redeployed from other sections and called in from home to try and deal with the call backlog, but warned it could take days to return to normal.