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Crews search for cars trapped by B.C. mudslides

Darpan News Desk The Canadian Press, 16 Nov, 2021 10:56 AM
  • Crews search for cars trapped by B.C. mudslides

AGASSIZ, B.C. - Rescue crews will spend Tuesday searching for people who may have been trapped in debris from mudslides on a British Columbia highway, after helicopters worked to ferry out 275 people from a slide site on Highway 7.

The mudslides rolled over the highway during an "atmospheric river" that brought a deluge of rain and flooding to the southwest and central parts of the province.

The torrential rain closed highways, overwhelmed rivers and creeks and caused the wastewater treatment plant in Merritt to break down, forcing the evacuation of the city of 7,000.

More than 20 emergency centres have been activated to help house stranded travellers.

Multiple roadways have been closed because of flooding or landslides, including sections of Highway 1A, Highway 3, Highway 11, Highway 12, and Highway 91.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is ready to help British Columbians affected by flooding and extreme weather, urging people to stay safe.

There have been no reports of any fatalities.

The latest news on mudslides and flooding in British Columbia (all times Eastern):

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3:00 p.m.

The First Nations Leadership Council wants the B.C. government to immediately declare an “indefinite” state of emergency in response to extreme weather events.

The council says in a statement that many First Nations are under evacuation orders or alerts, and many are dealing with onerous provincial emergency funding systems that don't meet their unique needs.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs says the province must connect the dots of the climate crisis by replacing a siloed approach with one that crosses ministries, and he says a state of emergency will give B.C. the power to use all available resources.

Regional chief Terry Teegee of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations says weather-related emergencies are outcomes of human-caused climate change, not isolated incidents.

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2:50 p.m.

A scientist at the University of Victoria says climate change likely played a role in the record-breaking rainstorm that caused slides and flooding across southern B.C.

Francis Zwiers says it's too early to judge the extent climate change caused the atmospheric river that began Saturday afternoon.

But he says there's no question such events are more common and more intense as the climate warms. 

A two-year-old B.C. government report estimates the province is at a "medium risk" for extreme rain, floods and landslides -- and all three happened during a span of just over 48 hours earlier this week.

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2:15 p.m.

B.C.'s cannabis distributor is warning its customers that delays are possible because extreme weather has disrupted some transportation routes.

The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch says it is working with vendors and third-party carriers to maintain regular service as the province recovers from the storm.

The branch says it has been reaching out to customers to inform them their deliveries may be delayed.

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1:45 p.m. 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the federal government needs to provide support to those who have been flooded out of their homes and to help stop further flooding in British Columbia. 

Singh, who is visiting Iqaluit, says as extreme weather increases more communities are being threatened. 

He says part of the federal government's response to the climate crisis should be support for building more resilient communities.

But for now, Singh says B.C. needs immediate help for those who are facing extreme flooding. 

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1:20 p.m.

The River Forecast Centre has lifted all flood warnings and watches on Vancouver Island, although high streamflow advisories remain posted for areas west of Parksville and Duncan.

The centre says levels on rivers including the Englishman, Cowichan, Chemainus (shuh-MAIN'-us) and Koksilah (coke-SIH'-la) have peaked and receded overnight.

Flood watches are posted on waterways from Vancouver north past Pemberton and east to Lytton and Hope, while a flood warning still covers the Sumas River south of Abbotsford.

Surges from U.S. waterways are blamed for flooding that has forced evacuations in the Fraser Valley, while the centre says rain and snowmelt continue to swell rivers around Merritt, Princeton, Hedley and Spences Bridge, with some levels well beyond highs seen once a century. 

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11:35 a.m.

Single-lane, alternating traffic is expected to begin moving on the Malahat Highway, the main link on Vancouver Island from Victoria north to Duncan and Nanaimo.

Emcon Services, which handles maintenance for the highway, says in a social media post that a geotechnical assessment is complete.

It was needed to ensure road stability in an area where torrents of water were washing over the road on Monday.

Emcon says vehicles could be getting past the washout by mid-morning.

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11:30 a.m.

The City of Vancouver says the Burrard Street Bridge has reopened after it was closed last night due to concern about a huge barge that had grounded nearby.

The barge broke free during a powerful windstorm that followed the torrential rains that lashed southern B-C between Saturday and Monday night.

Winds tossed the barge on the rocks of Sunset Beach and there were concerns it could refloat overnight and drift into the usually busy bridge.

A statement from the city says calmer weather and low winds have cut the risk of the barge drifting away, but the situation is being monitored closely. 

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11:04 a.m.

Residents of 1,100 homes in Abbotsford, B.C., east of Vancouver, have been ordered to get out as waterways in the Sumas Prairie region have started to rise quickly.

An evacuation order was issued this morning for the mainly rural properties just north of the U.S. border.

Police say they understand many of the affected properties are dairy farms or house other livestock, but they say the situation is changing rapidly and residents must leave now.

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10:20 a.m.

Wind and rain warnings have been lifted across B.C. as a fierce storm moves on after bringing slides, flooding and washouts to large parts of the province.

The high winds that followed the heavy rain are blamed for bringing down trees and electrical wires in areas where BC Hydro crews were already having trouble reaching outages caused by slides or high water.

Hydro crews have made good progress restoring power in many areas but nearly 20,000 customers from Vancouver Island to the Kootenay region are still in the dark and crews have not yet been assigned to several hard-hit areas, including Chilliwack and Hope.

The wind also tore a barge from its moorings in Vancouver's English Bay and pushed it high onto the rocks at Sunset Beach, forcing the city to close the nearby Burrard Bridge until further notice in case the vessel refloats and drifts into the busy span.

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9:44 a.m.

A new evacuation order has been issued for a section of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford.

A social media message from Abbotsford police says all residents living on the Sumas Prairie to the Chilliwack boundary must leave immediately.

Water levels in the area are rising very quickly.

The social media message says anyone who can't escape westbound should travel east to Chilliwack and shelter at Chilliwack Secondary School.

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9:30 a.m.

Environment Canada says 20 rainfall records were set Sunday as an atmospheric river rolled across southern British Columbia.

The eastern Fraser Valley was one of the hardest hit areas and the weather office says Hope, Abbotsford and Agassiz (AG'-uh-see) all received at least 100 millimetres of rain on Nov. 14.

Hope's record of 174 millimetres was the highest for the day, while the 127.3 millimetres that fell in Agassiz broke a record set in 1896.

Environment Canada says between 11 a.m. Saturday and 11 p.m. Monday, 24 communities across the province received more than 100 millimetres of rain, with Agassiz, Chilliwack, the Coquihalla summit and Squamish topping 200 millimetres and Hope receiving the most of all at 252 millimetres.

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9:20 a.m.

Rescue crews will focus today on two British Columbia highways where vehicles may have been swept away by mudslides during torrential rain that began Saturday.

Witnesses reported seeing vehicles hit by mud west of Vancouver on Highway 7 near Agassiz (AG'-uh-see) on Sunday.

Drivers stopped by a slide on Highway 99 between Lillooet (LIL'-oh-weht) and Pemberton yesterday also report vehicles were engulfed when a second slide occurred about 40 kilometres south of Lillooet.

There have been no reports of fatalities or missing people.

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