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Outdoor death toll similar to last year despite record cold in B.C.

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The BC Coroners Service is investigating the deaths of 36 people outdoors so far this year, two more than died in the same time period last year, CTV News has learned.

It's been a week since brutally cold temperatures settled over the province and lasted for several days, raising concerns about the safety of people without a place to call home. 

"These deaths are still under investigation and, as such, the causes of death are yet to be determined," reads a knowledge update from the coroners service, including data from Jan. 1 to 16.

"Excluded are deaths classified as suicide, homicide, or vehicle-related deaths (e.g., motor vehicle, ATV, cycling)," it goes on to say. "An outdoor death includes deaths that occur in public spaces outdoors, transport areas (e.g., street, sidewalk, parking lot), parks, trails, campgrounds, wooded or grassy areas, or outdoor space of a private residence (e.g., yard, driveway). "

Nine of those who died outdoors this year were over the age of 60, two of those being 80 or older. One was in their 20s, and for two of the 36, their age is unknown.

A dozen of the deaths were in Interior Health's boundaries, two in Northern Health, six on Vancouver Island, and 16 across Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities.

Meanwhile, BC Emergency Health Services says paramedics responded to 90 calls for hypothermia or frostbite province-wide from Jan. 5 to 16.

Homeless advocate Sarah Blyth has been documenting the suffering of Vancouver's street homeless population during the cold snap and Wednesday's snowstorm, including people huddled in doorways and one hunched over in a wheelchair, calling it "the failure of this city to help vulnerable people in a crisis."

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