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Canada: Deaths spike amid record heat wave

Coroners are investigating a surge in sudden deaths in British Columbia. Around 100 more people than usual have died over a four-day period as temperatures reached nearly 50 degrees Celsius.

A record-breaking heat wave in the Canadian province of British Columbia is thought to be responsible for dozens of sudden deaths.

Temperatures hit a record high for a third straight day Tuesday, hitting 49.5 Celsius (121 Fahrenheit) in the town of Lytton.

How deadly is Canada's heat wave?

By mid-Tuesday, police in Vancouver said they had responded to 65 sudden-death calls since Friday.

The deaths were still under investigation and many of the deceased were seniors, Cpl. Mike Kalanj of the Burnaby Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

Between Friday and Monday, amid what officials described as "extreme heat," at least 233 people died in British Columbia. That is about a hundred more than the average for a four-day period.

"Since the onset of the heat wave late last week, the British Columbia Coroners Service has experienced a significant increase in deaths reported where it is suspected that extreme heat has been contributory," the service said on Monday.

Coroners are now gathering information on the cause of deaths where heat may have played a role, the statement said.

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Cool & Clever - Chilling cities out

How are the authorities responding?

The police department said it had redeployed dozens of officers and asked the public to call 911 only for emergencies because heat-related deaths had depleted frontline resources and delayed response times.

"Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,'' Sgt. Steve Addison said in a news release. "Our officers are stretched thin, but we're still doing everything we can to keep people safe.''

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US and Canada scorched by heatwave

Weather beats 1937 record 

Temperatures in the Vancouver area were just below 32 C on Monday, but the humidity made it feel closer to 40 C in areas that aren't near water, Environment Canada said.

British Columbia closed schools and universities at the start of the week amid the record-breaking temperatures.

Prior to the weekend, the historical high in Canada was 45 C, set in Saskatchewan in 1937. The country is otherwise widely known for its brutal winter and snow.

lc (AP, Reuters)

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