Americas

Canada's province of British Columbia declares state of emergency

Hundreds stranded by catastrophic flooding, mudslides

Barry Ellsworth   | 18.11.2021
Canada's province of British Columbia declares state of emergency Aerial view of flooded farms in Surrey, British Columbia on November 16, 2021. ( Mert Alper Derviş - Anadolu Agency )

TRENTON, Canada

The Canadian province of British Columbia, under siege from floodwaters and mudslides, declared a state of emergency Wednesday. 

Thousands of people have been evacuated from communities as unprecedented rainfall of 12 inches over two days caused rivers to overflow banks and flood entire communities.

All 7,100 residents of Merritt were evacuated and 184 people from Abbotsford were rescued overnight. But a further 300 remain trapped by floodwaters near Abbotsford, and to make matters worse, a fire broke out at a recreational vehicle dealership that is emitting what could be toxic fumes.

Hundreds caught on a highway between mudslides and a raging river have also been rescued by helicopters. But there are widespread road closures due to flooding and debris.

The lower mainland of British Columbia is in effect cut off from other areas of the province and the rest of Canada as washed out roads and railway tracks created barriers to travel. Entire communities have been flooded with livestock trapped in fields, while houses and barns have been swept away.

"The last few days have been incredibly difficult for British Columbians who have experienced yet another natural disaster," said Premier John Horgan at a press conference Wednesday. "Heavy rains, strong winds, flooding have devastated entire communities of our province."

Horgan's mention of a previous disaster was referencing the record heat wave that engulfed the Canadian west coast province this past summer, killing almost 600 people.

This latest catastrophe has so far claimed only one life, but Horgan said there will be more.

"Sadly, we expect to confirm more fatalities in the coming days," he said.

Horgan said he has spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who offered help from federal resources. The military has been called in to bolster rescue efforts.

Declaring a state of emergency gives provincial officials added powers to restrict travel and order evacuations and implement other emergency plans.

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