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'Unprecedented casualties' in Vancouver during heat wave: police

Police have responded to 65 sudden deaths
Emergency services are struggling to keep up with incidents in the heat.

During the unprecedented heat wave rolling through Vancouver right now police are reporting a large increase of sudden deaths.

Police are pleading with people to only call 911 in emergencies as heat-related deaths continue throughout the city.

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

To that end, extra officers are being deployed Tuesday.

Between Friday, June 25 (when the heat wave began) and Tuesday, June 29 at 1:45 p.m. police had responded to 65 sudden deaths, according to the release. Of those, 20 were today (June 29), and police are still responding to related calls.

"The vast majority of these cases are related to the heat,” adds 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.”

Sudden deaths aren't unheard of; Vancouver police officers typically respond to three or four in a day, along with fire and medical crews. The current average since Friday has been 14 sudden deaths a day.

Other communities are reporting similar issues.

To help deal with the increased call load, officers are being reassigned from the investigation division and called in from home. This will continue until the backlog of calls is dealt with.

“Until this subsides, our priority will be responding to crimes-in-progress and calls that involve an immediate risk to the public,” adds Addison. “We’re asking everyone to be patient and to understand that we’re doing everything we can to respond to your calls for help.”