Military arrives in smaller B.C. centres; RCMP searches for woman who was washed away

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A member of the Canadian Forces carries sandbags while building a temporary dike behind homes along Claiburn Creek ahead of a rain warning Environment Canada has forecast for the region, already affected by flooding, in Abbotsford, BC, on November 24.DARRYL DYCK / The Associated Press

The province’s public safety minister says more support is coming for small, flood-hit B.C. communities still stranded by broken highways and facing more rain than forecast.


At a flood briefing on Wednesday, Mike Farnsworth said the military was on site in the now devastated city of Princeton and that the province has set up a hotline for evacuation to receive information about new risks and the different forms of aid they can take. can access now.

“Through all this, some people are returning to their homes in Merritt, Princeton and elsewhere,” Mr Farnworth said. “They are embarking on the arduous task of handling the debris and the destruction that floodwaters leave behind. And yet others have been evacuated, some for more than a week now.”

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Large-scale cleanup efforts are underway in communities large and small throughout the province. While the military descended on Abbotsford earlier this week to help repair the dike system designed to protect that vital agricultural area, Merritt, Princeton and smaller municipalities in the east are grappling with the enormity of what lies ahead.

The sewage system in Merritt had collapsed and countless homes were destroyed, including some mobile homes that simply swam. The nearby town of Spence Bridge lost its lifeline to Merritt and parts of the east when Highway 8 was torn in several places by landslides. And homes in Princeton have been inundated with mud and debris after devastating floods in that city.

Members of the Canadian Forces fill sandbags near Claiburn Creek in Abbotsford on November 24.Darryl Dyke/The Canadian Press

Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Murray Rankin also announced new teams to help First Nations communities without explicit access to the provincial highway system. They will be staffed by personnel from the First Nations Emergency Service Society, First Nations Health Authority, Indigenous Services Canada and Emergency Management BC.

“Yesterday I was on a call with First Nations leaders and Minister Farnsworth,” Mr Rankin said on Wednesday. “We heard from the affected communities. We listened to their concerns about how we can improve our response. And I heard we have more work to do.”

Hundreds of First Nations people across the province have had to flee their homes this year as a result of fires or floods, some of whom have now been displaced twice. Indigenous communities say they have been most affected because of a reserve system that has created small, scattered sites, some of which are criss-crossed by highways, pipelines or railway tracks. Response in these areas has been hindered by their relatively small populations, lack of equipment and limited infrastructure, such as community halls or fire trucks.

Mawournine Varko-Ryan says she and her neighbors have yet to receive any provincial help in a dozen properties in a rural area on the Nicola River northwest of Merritt. he and two others are Now Crowdsourcing $50,000 Online So 27 people can rent helicopters to return to their homes and prepare for winter. The nearby highway has been damaged due to landslides at many places.

“There is just so much devastation across the south of the province – whether it is Princeton, in the lower mainland with cattle and chickens that are dying. I think the focus will be where the population density is higher,” Ms. Varko -Ryan told Wednesday. “We are few, but our calamity is huge.”

He and his partner evacuated when they saw Highway 8 collapse near their house, and they are living with their daughter in Kamloops. The couple has not received any money even after registering in the province for emergency aid. And he doubts that a new $2,000 payment administered by the Red Cross will go too far in this crisis.

But still they consider themselves lucky.

Members of the Canadian Forces build a temporary dike with sandbags behind homes on Clayburn Creek in Abbotsford on November 24.Darryl Dyke/The Canadian Press

Three nearby houses were washed away last week. Two homes survived, Ms Varko-Ryan said, but a woman is still missing from the third, despite helicopter searches in the area, which has been cut off from hydroelectricity and cellphone services.

The RCMP has confirmed that they are investigating the woman’s disappearance. The number of people killed or missing in the floods has risen to six, with four bodies recovered from a mudflat along Highway 99 near Lilleut and one person still missing.

On Wednesday, wind and rain warnings covered most of the west coast. Environment Canada said a “parade of storms” was expected in areas of the province struggling to recover from last week’s floods.

Mr Farnsworth said BC remains in “unknown territory” and cautioned that even regular rainfall could raise already-rising rivers to dangerous levels. He urged the residents of the flood-affected areas to prepare for evacuation and check updates.

“These are complex and dynamic times,” he said.

However, he said the government was also working on recovery efforts, with the supply chain stabilizing, gas shortages starting to ease and allowing some evacuees to return to their homes.

The center, which tracks the province’s waterways, said several atmospheric rivers would be drenched in BC, bringing 70 millimeters of rain to the Fraser Valley, including Abbotsford, and even more in the North Shore mountains of Vancouver by Thursday. The River Forecast Center statement said another storm would hit Saturday and “additional storms are expected early next week,” although the amount and severity of rain are still being determined.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said at a separate briefing on Wednesday that about 90 percent of the cracks in his community’s main dam system had been repaired and work should be completed by Thursday. A boil-water advisory was issued for the massive Sumas prairie, where pools deeper than two meters could be filled with “dangerous and potentially toxic material”, Mr Braun said.

“We are as prepared as we can be,” he said of the anticipated rainfall.

With a report from the Canadian Press

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