A total of 66 people died from extreme heat during last summer’s heat wave, 13 more than the initial tally , the Montreal Public Department reported Wednesday.
Contrary to some news media reports that focused on heat-related deaths in hospitals and long-term care centres, the exhaustive report says 80 per cent of the victims died at home.
Researchers discovered that two-thirds of the deaths occurred in so-called heat islands — neighbourhoods with few trees to provide shade. For example, the heat-related mortality rate was 1.2 per 100,000 residents in leafy Notre-Dame-de-Grâce compared with 5.8 in the largely concrete-and-brick environment of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.
”Low income and social isolation are also important risk factors during heat waves,” said Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of the public health department, adding that authorities can expect more heat waves as a result of climate change.
Last summer’s heat wave lasted from June 30 to July 5, and at one point there were so many deaths that the city’s morgue was filled to capacity. Still, the mortality rate overall was lower than a heat wave in 2010.
Of those who died, 72 per cent suffered from chronic illness and 66 per cent were at least 65 years old. What’s more, a disproportionately high number of those who died — 25 per cent — lived with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
To prepare for the next heat wave, authorities are completing a registry of at-risk homes, including private seniors’ residences and rooming houses. During last summer’s heat wave, the Montreal Fire Department and police conducted 42,000 door-to-door visits, and authorities say the new registry will allow them to better target at-risk residences to reduce the number of heat-related deaths.
In the long term, the city of Montreal intends to plant more trees on the island to absorb the summer heat.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019