Deaths spike as heatwave scorches parts of US, Canada
Washington/Ottawa, July 2, 2021
Hundreds of deaths in Canada's British Columbia province and in the US states of Washington and Oregon have been linked to a record breaking heatwave scorching the two countries, sending thousands of people scrambling for relief, according to authorities.
Lisa Lapointe, British Columbia's chief coroner, said on Thursday 486 deaths had been reported in the province between June 25, a period in which about 165 deaths would normally be documented.
Deaths were expected to increase, she said.
"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 British Columbia has experienced."
Oregon's state medical examiner's office on Wednesday attributed at least 63 deaths in five days to the punishing heat in the state, including 45 in Multnomah County, which includes Portland, where temperatures reached a record 46 degrees Celsius.
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, Washington, at least three people died this week from heatstroke, according to the medical examiner's office, which added that investigations are pending into at least two more suspected heat-related deaths.
"This was a true health crisis that has underscored how deadly an extreme heat wave can be, especially to otherwise vulnerable people," Jennifer Vines, the Multnomah County health officer, said in a statement on Thursday.
"I know many county residents were looking out for each other and am deeply saddened by this initial death toll."
This year a study found that 37 per cent of heat-related deaths could be linked to climate change.
"Climate change is increasing the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves," Kristie Ebi, a professor in the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington, was quoted as saying.
"When you look at this heat wave, it is so far outside the range of normal."