Jul 1, 2021 - Science

Deaths surge in Pacific Northwest as temperatures hit all-time highs

Photo of a paper sign that says "Cooling Centre" taped to a glass wall
Inside one of Vancouver's 25 air-conditioned cooling centres, visitors quietly read books or worked on laptops as the death toll in Canada's British Columbia province rose into the hundreds. "We've had heat waves before, but not to this extent," said Lou, who provided only her first name. "I'm shocked by how many deaths there have been." Photo: Don MacKinnon/AFP via Getty Images

Authorities in Canada, Oregon and Washington are investigating hundreds of deaths likely caused by the Pacific Northwest's worst heat wave on record, AP reports.

Driving the news: Temperatures in the region have shattered records since Friday. Extreme heat ranks as the nation's top weather-related killer annually, according to the National Weather Service.

  • People in the region are not used to heat of this magnitude, which has made this event an acute health risk, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

The big picture: The office of the British Columbia chief coroner received reports of at least 486 "sudden and unexpected deaths" between Friday and Wednesday. Typically, around 165 die in the province over a five-day period.

  • Oregon health officials said over 60 deaths in the state are tied to the heat, while Washington has reported more than a dozen heat-related deaths, according to AP.
  • Those numbers are expected to rise, per AP.
  • The heat wave has also driven more than 1,100 people to the hospital for possible heat-related illness as of Tuesday.
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