VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The Canadian government said Wednesday it is sending the air force to the Pacific coast Canadian province of British Columbia to assist with evacuations and to support supply lines following floods and mudslides caused by extremely heavy rainfall.
Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said they will also protect residents against further flooding or landslides. Military helicopters already helped evacuate about 300 people from one highway where people were trapped in their cars overnight Monday following a mudslide,
“Torrential rains have led to terrible flooding that has disrupted the lives and taken lives of people across B.C. I want people to know that the federal government has been engaging with the local authorities,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Washington. “We’re sending resources like the Canadian Armed Forces to support people but also we’ll be there for the cleanup and the rebuilding after impacts of these extreme weather events.”
The body of a woman was recovered from one of the mudslides caused by extremely heavy rainfall and the mudslides have destroyed parts of several major highways.
The total number of people and vehicles unaccounted for had not yet been confirmed. Investigators had received reports of two other people who were missing but added that other motorists might have been buried in a slide on Highway 99 near the town of Lillooet.
Elsewhere in the province, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said residents of the low-lying Sumas Prairie area south of the city face a significant risk to life and must get out immediately.
An evacuation order was issued for about 1,000 properties Tuesday as flooding linked to a severe weekend rainstorm pushed up water levels in the area which is home to many large dairy farms and other agricultural and livestock operations.
Braun said conditions are dire, with a key pumping station keeping water from the nearby Fraser River from engulfing most of the Sumas Prairie flats in danger of being overwhelmed. Braun has said he has been worried about getting enough information from officials in Washington state about water levels that have risen dramatically from the overflowing Nooksack River and over the Sumas dike.
Crews spent the night sandbagging the Barrowtown Pump Station and the city’s fire chief told a news conference late Tuesday that additional rescue and swift water rescue equipment was being added, in anticipation of the need for immediate, life saving assistance if the pumps go down.
Braun warned the roughly 300 residents who were refusing to leave on Tuesday that they will be “incredibly surprised” how quickly a flood surge will hit if the Barrowtown station shuts down.
British Columbia’s cabinet ministers are expected to consider whether to declare a provincewide state of emergency in response to floods, washouts and landslides that cut all routes from the Lower Mainland to the Interior following record-breaking rainfall across southern B.C. between Saturday and Monday.
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