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Possibility of provincewide state of emergency “very much on the table”


The B.C. government is considering whether to declare a provincewide state of emergency following historic rainfall, flooding and landslides that have forced thousands of people from their homes.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says supplies of food, cots and blankets are being delivered to the town of Hope, which is helping nearly 1,100 people.

On Tuesday, RCMP recovered the body of a woman from a landslide across Highway 99 near Lillooet.

Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet says the total number of people and vehicles unaccounted for has not been confirmed but investigators say two people are missing.

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A search for anyone who may have been buried by two slides is also underway in the Highway 7 area near Agassiz after about 300 people spent the night in their vehicles and were helicoptered to safety on Monday.

Multiple roadways have been closed because of flooding, landslides or washed-out bridges, including sections of Highway 1, Highway 3, Highway 5, Highway 11, Highway 91 and Highway 99.

Late Tuesday, the City of Abbotsford issued an urgent plea for people living in a low-lying area called Sumas Prairie to evacuate immediately to avoid a potential catastrophe.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said if the Barrowtown Pump Station fails, water will rise very quickly, posing a significant risk to life.

“If you are still on Sumas Prairie, you need to leave. Get out of the area. I know it’s hard for farmers to leave their livestock. But people’s lives are more important to me right now than livestock and chickens,” Braun said during a news conference. “This is imminent.”

In a statement late Tuesday, Farnsworth said the provincial government is supporting Abbotsford with any resources it needs, noting the failure of the pump station is “anticipated to be catastrophic.” He also said he has been in contact with Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair to request federal assistance in Abbotsford and the flooding situation in general, including Canadian Armed Forces ground and air support.

The City of Merritt says it will likely be more than a week before its 7,000 residents can return home after the entire community was evacuated when the water treatment facility was put out of commission by flooding.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2021.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2021