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Dozens of deaths in Vancouver, Burnaby linked to heat wave as police scramble to keep up

911 operators saw a 55% rise in calls this weekend
Police in Burnaby were dispatched to more than 25 sudden deaths Monday, June 28. (Black Press Media files)

Check in on your loved ones and neighbours, police in the Lower Mainland are urging after being dispatched to dozens of sudden deaths in Vancouver and Burnaby during the ongoing heat wave.

Vancouver police said they’ve responded to 65 sudden deaths since Friday, when temperatures began to skyrocket. In the past few days, temperatures have ranged from 33 to 42 degrees celsius across Metro Vancouver.

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

Usually, Vancouver averages about three to four sudden deaths a day. Since the heat wave began Friday, officers have responded to an average of 14 per day.

“The vast majority of these cases are related to the heat,” said Addison. “We’ve never seen anything like this, and it breaks our hearts. If you have an elderly or vulnerable family member, please give them a call or stop by to check on them.”

Police officers have been redeployed from the investigative division and officers who were off for the day have been called in to help.

Over in Burnaby, Mounties responded to more than 25 sudden deaths on Monday.

“Heat is believed to be a contributing factor in the majority of the deaths,” said Cpl. Mike Kalanj.

“We are seeing this weather can be deadly for vulnerable members of our community, especially the elderly and those with underlying health issues,” Kalanj said.

READ MORE: Heat wave sets new record for peak hourly demand: BC Hydro

Paramedics, 911 operators stretched

A spike in 911 calls during the heat wave has also pushed paramedics to the edge.

B.C. 911 operators received close to 8,000 calls June 26 (Saturday) and more than 7,300 calls on June 27 (Sunday) – totalling more than 55 per cent above June’s daily average.

According to the union that represents more than 500 operators, call takers and dispatchers, there was a 47-minute hold time for police emergency lines Tuesday morning.

Five-minute waits were also recorded for callers hoping to be connected with 911 operators.

“There simply aren’t enough of us to get to these calls as quickly as we need to,” said CUPE 8911 president Donald Grant.

RELATED: ‘It breaks my heart:’ heat wave taking a toll on pets, Langley vet clinic staffer warns

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