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B.C. declares state of emergency in wake of devastating flooding, mudslides

Wednesday, November 17th 2021, 7:50 pm - Premier Horgan says he expects to confirm more fatalities in the coming days

THE LATEST:

  • The B.C. government has declared a state of emergency effective noon PT Wednesday.
  • The federal government has approved deployment of air force personnel to help B.C. with flood aftermath.
  • 184 people were rescued from the Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford overnight after the city issued urgent pleas to evacuate the area late Tuesday due to the imminent failure of a pumping station.
  • A large fire that broke out at an RV dealership in Abbotsford has now been extinguished.
  • Thousands remain evacuated from towns in southern B.C., including Merritt and Princeton.
  • An evacuation order remains in effect for the community of Yarrow and Majuba Hill in Chilliwack, where officials say 640 evacuees have already registered at an emergency reception centre.
  • The federal government has approved deployment of air force personnel to help B.C. with flood aftermath.
  • For a list of up-to-date flood warnings, visit the River Forecast Centre.
  • For a full list of evacuation orders and alerts, visit Emergency Information B.C.

British Columbia's government declared a province-wide state of emergency effective noon PT Wednesday, Premier John Horgan said at a news conference.

The announcement comes after record-breaking rainfall caused major flooding and several mudslides that left hundreds of people in the Lower Mainland stranded or cut off from essential services.

According to the premier, the declaration will give the government greater flexibility to help keep goods moving, as major road closures have hampered the supply chain.

Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes and one woman was confirmed dead on Tuesday after a mudslide swept across a portion of B.C.'s Highway 99.

"We expect to confirm even more fatalities in the coming days," said Horgan.

The state of emergency is in effect for 14 days with the possibility of extending it if needed.

It is intended to help the government get rail and roadways back up and in operation.

"Our focus is on clearing, repairing and reopening roads to connect the Interior and the North to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, to get our supply chains moving," Rob Fleming, provincial minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in a statement.

WATCH BELOW: WHEN AND WHERE TO EXPECT THE NEXT RAINS FOR B.C.


RELATED: How B.C.'s catastrophic rainfall, flooding was foretold days before


FRASER VALLEY SITUATION

In the Fraser Valley, evacuation orders remain for residents in the Sumas Prairie area of Abbotsford and the community of Yarrow and Majuba Hill in Chilliwack.

Abbotsford city officials said Wednesday morning that 184 people had been rescued from the Sumas Prairie area overnight with support from the local police, fire and search and rescue teams. In Chilliwack, officials say 640 evacuees have already registered at an emergency reception centre.

Residents in areas of both cities under evacuation alert were endangered by what officials called the "imminent failing" of the Barrowtown Pump Station, which, as of Tuesday night, was the only thing keeping excess water flow from the Fraser River from entering the flooded area.

Abbotsford flooding Ben Nelms CBC NO REUSE A mobile trailer home is pictured underwater after flooding in Abbotsford on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

RELATED: B.C.: Devastation unfolds, 250+ mm of rain washes out roads, forces evacuations

The station was also in danger of being inundated with floodwaters flowing north from the Nooksack River in Washington state.

However, city staff and volunteers in Chilliwack and Abbotsford worked through the night to build a 25-metre dam around the station to hold back the rising water.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said Wednesday morning the dam has bought the city some much-needed time and protection.

The University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford has cancelled classes for the rest of the week, and schools in Chilliwack and Hope are closed Wednesday.


DEALERSHIP FIRE

A large structural fire that was burning at an RV dealership in the area of Sumas Mountain Road and North Parallel Road in Abbotsford has now been extinguished, as of 2:10 p.m. PT.

According to officials, around 100 RVs out of about 500 on the lot were on fire Wednesday morning.

"This truly was a team effort from all involved to prevent further damage and spread," the Abbotsford Police Department said in a statement.

Residents who remain in the area are being asked to stay indoors as the dangerous situation is being assessed and smoke from the fire could be toxic.

Abbotsford Fire CBC Ben Nelms NO REUSE Smoke billows from a fire in the Sumas Prairie flood zone at a recreational vehicle business at North Parallel Road and Sumas Mountain Road in Abbotsford on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Abbotsford fire Chief Darren Lee said a major concern was the fire's proximity to a nearby propane filling station and an overhead power line.

"If you actually have enough smoke, the power can go to ground through the smoke particulate," he said.

WATCH: SMOKE BILLOWS FROM FIRE IN B.C. FLOOD ZONE

CUT OFF AND STRANDED

All four highways that connect the Lower Mainland with the rest of the province have been closed by landslides and flooding that dumped a month's worth of rain over two days.

Thousands of evacuees remain in more than 20 evacuation centres across the province, with the city of Hope, B.C., hosting 1,100 people who are currently cut off from the Lower Mainland. Officials said they are working to provide an access road to the community.

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming told a media conference Tuesday crews had begun work on restoring the province's highway network, but did not have specific timelines for when crucial arteries would reopen.

Fleming said Highway 3 might be able to reopen by the end of the weekend, but he wouldn't hint at when the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1), the Coquihalla (Highway 5), and Highway 99 would reopen.

As of Wednesday morning, Highway 7 west of Agassiz had reopened a single lane open to emergency vehicles only.

Staff are prioritizing Highway 3 to ensure access to the Interior from the Lower Mainland is not cut off.

Work will take longer on Highway 5 and Highway 1, with staff confirming washouts and mudslides on both routes.

flooding-abbotsford People are rescued by boat Tuesday from an area of Abbotsford that was cut off due to flooding. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

FEDERAL ASSISTANCE

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said there are still "options" for the province's supply chain at the moment, urging people to be patient.

He is chairing a cabinet meeting on Wednesday looking to declare a provincial state of emergency due to the flooding situation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he would be willing to provide any support the province needs.

On Wednesday morning, Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair said the federal government has approved the deployment of air force personnel to help B.C. deal with the aftermath of the floods.

Also Wednesday morning, the Canadian Border Services Agency said in a statement that given the current situation in B.C., travellers who must transit through the U.S. to get to their residence in Canada are exempt from the COVID-19 pre-arrival test, the test in Canada and quarantine requirements.

READ MORE:

  • The president of the B.C. Trucking Association is urging people not to panic buy after highway shutdowns led to hoarding in some communities.
  • Experts warn that "rare" flooding events in the Fraser Valley could become more common and more intense as the planet warms.
  • Anyone placed under evacuation order should leave the area immediately.

To find an evacuation centre close to you, visit the Emergency Management B.C. website.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.

Road conditions can be checked at DriveBC.

The story was originally published on CBC.ca

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