The B.C. Coroners Service is reporting 16 suspected heat-related deaths across the province between July 26 and Aug. 3.
In a report released Tuesday, the service revealed the greatest number of deaths — five — occurred on July 29, followed by July 30, with a total of three.
The greatest number of deaths — six — were in the 70-to-78 age range, followed by the 60-to-69 age range at three.
Eight of the deaths were in the Fraser Health Authority region and six were in the Interior Health region.
The numbers come after a series of heat waves in the province.
On July 25, Environment Canada warned that temperatures could reach between 35 C and 40 C between July 27 and 29 in the Okanagan, Similkameen, Fraser Canyon, Shuswap, Boundary, Kootenay and Thompson areas.
In Greater Victoria, Howe Sound, Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, temperatures were forecast to reach between 31 C and 35 C.
The B.C. government published an extreme-heat preparedness guide in June, the same month it launched a new BC Heat Alert and Response System to warn residents of upcoming extreme heat, and help them prepare.
That alarm system was activated during the July 25 to Aug. 3 heat wave, Emergency Management BC confirmed Tuesday.
Environment Canada has issued current heat warnings for inland sections of the Central and North coasts, the Fraser Canyon and the North Thompson, where temperatures could reach daytime highs between 28 C and 35 C. Temperatures are expected to cool off by the weekend.
“Thankfully, the temperatures this summer have not reached the heat or duration of the 2021 extreme heat emergency – this alone has likely helped to save lives,” said B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth in an emailed statement.
“However, we are hopeful that the measures we have taken, and continue to take, helped to keep many people safe during the recent heat warning.”
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Last year, 619 deaths in B.C. between June 25 and July 1 were heat-related, as the province experienced a record-breaking heat dome.
A review of that tragedy made 14 recommendations into preventing similar deaths, including a clearer and more coordinated action plan in the event of another extreme heat event. The report by the BC Coroners Service also recommended authorities review whether to issue cooling devices such as air conditioners and fans to people most at risk of dying during a heat emergency.
It found 98 per cent of the deaths happened indoors, with hundreds occurring in homes ill-suited to the temperatures, which spiked into the high 30s and beyond for days. Just one per cent of victims had air conditioners that were on at the time.
“We know heat events caused by climate change will continue to challenge our province,” said Farnworth. “We remain committed to working with First Nations, local authorities and public health partners to help ensure all British Columbians can stay safe during heat events.”
— with files from Global News’ Richard Zussman and The Canadian Press