More than 230 deaths reported in British Columbia amid historic heat wave

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(CNN)More than 230 deaths have been reported in British Columbia since Friday as a historic heat wave brought record-high temperatures, officials said Tuesday. The province's chief coroner called it an "unprecedented time."

"Since the onset of the heat wave late last week, the BC Coroners Service has experienced a significant increase in deaths reported where it is suspected that extreme heat has been contributory," Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement.

The coroner's service normally receives about 130 death reports over a four-day period. From Friday through Monday, at least 233 deaths were reported, the chief coroner said, adding "this number will increase as data continues to be updated."

    Coroners are now gathering information to determine the cause and manner of deaths and whether heat played a role, the statement said.

      How to stay cool without air conditioning

      "Environmental heat exposure can lead to severe or fatal results, particularly in older people, infants and young children and those with chronic illnesses," the statement added.

      Authorities earlier in the day reported a spike in sudden deaths for Vancouver and nearby Burnaby and Surrey.

      Officers have responded to more than 65 sudden deaths since the heat wave began on Friday, Vancouver police said. "Today alone, officers had responded to 20 sudden deaths as of 1:45 p.m., with more than a dozen others waiting for police to be dispatched," the department said in a statement

      Heat-related deaths have depleted front-line resources and severely delayed response times, officials said.

      "We've never experienced anything like this heat in Vancouver," media relations Officer Sgt. Steve Addison said during a press conference.

      Readings in downtown Vancouver were 98.6 degrees on Saturday, 99.5 on Sunday and 101.5 on Monday.

      'It is imperative we check on one another'

      Royal Canadian Mounted Police have responded to 35 sudden deaths in nearby Surrey since Monday, media relations officer Cst. Sarbjit K. Sangha told CNN.

      "While the causes of death has not yet been determined in each of these cases, we can confirm that Surrey RCMP is responding to a higher than usual number of deaths since the beginning of the extreme weather conditions," Sangha said.

      Extreme heat will be more frequent in the Pacific Northwest. Experts say it's not prepared.

      In the city of Burnaby, police responded to more than 34 sudden death calls since Monday, with heat believed to be a contributing factor in the majority of the deaths, according to a release from RCMP.

      "We are seeing this weather can be deadly for vulnerable members of our community, especially the elderly and those with underlying health issues. It is imperative we check on one another during this extreme heat," Cpl. Mike Kalanj with Burnaby RCMP said.

      Many of the deceased have been senior citizens, RCMP said, and police are urging people to check on loved ones and neighbors as the heat wave bringing record-breaking temperatures to the region continues.

      The RCMP in Surrey is encouraging all residents, especially the elderly, to take precautions to protect themselves from heat injuries.

      Lytton, British Columbia, hit 121 degrees on Tuesday -- the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada. The record was broken on Sunday and then again on Monday.

      Climate change at play

      And heat waves are becoming both more common and more intense due to the warming climate.

        "Prolonged extreme heat (in recent years) has been unprecedented since the start of reliable instrumental records in 1895," according to the US National Climate Assessment.

        Already, extreme heat is one of the deadliest types of weather-related events in the US, killing an average of 702 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That's more than are killed in hurricanes, floods and tornadoes in most years.

        CNN's Brandon Miller contributed to this report.

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