Canada sends military to flood-ravaged Pacific coast; death toll set to rise
Canada is sending the military to help evacuate and support communities hit by "catastrophic" flooding after record rainfall on the Pacific coast triggered a state of emergency, the government said Wednesday.
Residents of this small US city along the Canadian border were assessing damage from flooding that hit an estimated three quarters of homes, as Washington state and British Columbia tried to dry out from an intense, days-long rain storm that cut off key roadways and forced hundreds of evacuations.
Skies were sunny Wednesday morning in the area around Sumas, Washington, where about 500 rescues and evacuations were reported.
Downpours in British Columbia this week trapped motorists in mudslides that left at least one dead and three missing, forced thousands to flee their homes, and cut off Vancouver and its port.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Washington ahead of meeting with his US and Mexican counterparts, said the heavy rains caused "historical and terrible flooding that has disrupted the lives and taken lives of people across BC."
"I can confirm there are hundreds of Canadian Armed Forces members currently headed to British Columbia to help with everything from supplies to evacuation to whatever is needed," he said.
Canadian police, Staff Sergeant Janelle Shoihet told AFP late Wednesday, "have received a fourth missing person report related to the Lillooet mudslide."
As the season's first snow flurries started falling over inland towns covered in mud and partially inundated, residents scrambled for food, heat and water.
Many grocery store shelves were empty, as supply chain disruptions led to panic buying.
Horgan urged citizens not to hoard: "You do not need 48 eggs. A dozen will do, and leave the rest for somebody else."
The soaking fueled by a so-called atmospheric river that dumped torrents rain on the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia from Saturday through Monday reminded people of western Washington’s record, severe flooding in November 1990 when two people died and there were more than 2,000 evacuations.
While the weather was improving, the situation remained dire in British Columbia, where the Canadian government was sending in the military to help with floods and mudslides that destroyed parts of several major highways. One death was reported and officials said Wednesday that more deaths were expected.
Immediately across the border from Sumas, police using helicopters and boats had evacuated about 180 residents of a flooded low-lying area of Abbotsford, British Columbia. Evacuations continued Wednesday.
Mayor Henry Braun said Wednesday that conditions were bad overnight because a key pumping station was in danger of being overwhelmed. He said crews spent Tuesday night sandbagging around the station and things were "holding steady.”
"I’m feeling much better today than last night,” Braun said, although he cautioned the danger had not passed.
Those evacuated in Abbotsford joined thousands of others in the province who were forced from their homes by floods or landslides starting Sunday night.
On Facebook, the City of Sumas said Wednesday that water levels were continuing to drop and it looked like the community wouldn't be affected by additional potential flooding in Abbotsford. It said crews were working hard to clear roads and return power to some parts of town.
"These families and businesses need our prayers and support as we start the process of cleanup and rebuilding over the next few days,” the city said in another Facebook post.