Mammoth cleanup to begin in B.C. as flood waters recede


THE LATEST:

  • B.C. officials said more fatalities could be confirmed in the coming days from the floods, with thousands of animals already lost.
  • The mayor of Abbotsford, B.C. said catastrophic floods in the Sumas Prairie region were averted Wednesday after more than 300 volunteers built sandbanks around a pump station.
  • A provincial state of emergency was declared by Premier John Horgan on Wednesday, set to last 14 days and meant to give the government greater flexibility to help keep goods moving.
  • Some highways, including Highway 7 from Hope, B.C. to Vancouver, have reopened. The city of Hope was hosting more than 1,000 evacuees.
  • Nearly 20,000 people are still out of their homes across the province.
  • For a list of up-to-date flood warnings, visit the River Forecast Centre.

British Columbia has begun the mammoth task of assessing damage to its transportation networks, infrastructure and thousands of properties along the southern part of the province in the wake of devastating floods. The province also expects the death toll to rise.

Thousands of people remain out of their homes and thousands of farm animals and livestock were also imperilled as waters washed away homes and left farms under metres of water as the province declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.

The flooding was caused by record rainfall last weekend.

The state of emergency will last two weeks and could be extended. It allows the government greater control over supply chains, as access to Metro Vancouver remains constrained by damaged highways.

One woman has been confirmed killed in a mudslide on Highway 99, but B.C. Premier John Horgan said he expects officials to confirm more deaths in the coming days.

WATCH | Abbotsford residents rally to protect vital pump station:

Scramble to protect Abbotsford, B.C., pump station, rescue animals

Abbotsford, B.C., has one of the most urgent situations in the province, with concern a vital pump station could be overwhelmed with water and create even more catastrophic flooding. The agriculture sector is concerned about the amount of livestock that will be lost to the floodwaters. 3:21

Thousands of animals have perished in the floods and the government says it will work to get veterinarians into farms to treat animals. Some of the animals that escaped that floods are expected to be euthanized.

“It is a very difficult time for our producers,” B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham told a news conference, nearly in tears as she described the widespread flooding as an “agricultural disaster.”

Popham said hundreds of farms have been affected provincewide by the floodwaters, many in the Fraser Valley, about an hour’s drive east of Vancouver.

The region has been one of the hardest hit by floods, with evacuation orders still in effect for the city of Abbotsford.

A man uses a jet ski to help a cow swim across a flooded field after rainstorms caused flooding and landslides in Abbotsford, B.C. Thousands of animals are said to have perished in the floods. (Jesse Winter/Reuters)

Water levels drop in Fraser Valley

Abbotsford, known for its rich farmland, is home to roughly half of all the dairy farms in British Columbia. Dozens of dairy and chicken farms have been overwhelmed by water in the low-lying, rural area of Sumas Prairie, the hardest-hit area east of the city’s centre.

The region escaped a more catastrophic flood Tuesday night after volunteers helped build sandbanks around a pumping station, according to Mayor Henry Braun.

Residents in some areas of Abbotsford and the nearby town of Chilliwack were endangered when officials warned the Barrowtown pump station was in imminent danger of failing. The station is the only thing keeping excess water flow from the Fraser River from entering the flooded area.

By Wednesday, Braun said water levels were dropping and the city might soon be able to open floodgates, relieving some of the pressure on the pumping station.

Chilliwack downgraded an evacuation order for the community of Yarrow and Majuba Hill in Chilliwack to an evacuation alert Wednesday evening due to the improving situation.

An aerial view of where the Trans-Canada Highway used to run through the Sumas flats in Abbotsford. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Some highways reopen

However, provincial officials have urged residents to avoid travel unless it’s essential even as some highways opened around the province.

Highway 7, a key link between the Lower Mainland and the communities of Hope and Agassiz to the east, was opened Wednesday to permit westbound traffic, allowing people who were trapped in Hope to return to Metro Vancouver. A train carrying 200 people stranded in Hope when the highways closed also arrived in Vancouver late Wednesday night.

Most of the major highways, including the east-west Trans Canada Highway and the Coquihalla (Highway 5), remain damaged by significant washouts.

“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,” Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement.

On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said hundreds of Canadian Armed Forces members were on their way to the province to help with emergency operations.

READ MORE:

  • Provincial officials are reminding British Columbians to not panic-buy or hoard, after scenes of empty grocery store shelves in Hope, Chilliwack and the Okanagan region.
  • The City of Abbotsford is urging people not to swim or paddle in flood waters. Risks include toxicity and electrocution.
  • A look at the numbers around the floods show an unprecedented situation in more ways than one, with rainfall records shattered across the province.
  • The Fraser Health authority is coordinating flights for dialysis patients who have been cut off from hospitals.

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.



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Written by bourbiza

bourbiza is an entertainment reporter for iltuoiphone News and is based in Los Angeles.

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