Flood-stricken western Canada continues to search and evacuate

The search continued Thursday to find survivors in western Canada affected for several days by severe flooding and landslides, while hundreds of people were evacuated from an area isolated by rising waters.

Torrential rains that fell within hours since Sunday in British Columbia have caused landslides that have destroyed roads and infrastructure and drowned entire cities underwater, killing one and leaving thousands of evacuees, local authorities say.

On Wednesday, Ottawa sent the army to reinforce the province that declared a state of emergency, as had already been the case in July due to massive forest fires. In just a few months, this region of the Canadian Pacific coast has suffered repeated natural disasters, since a very intense heat episode in late June, a consequence of global warming, according to experts.

Rescuers were still searching for three missing people near Pemberton, northeast of Vancouver, which had been hit by a landslide on Thursday. There the body of a woman was found.

“The search continues in the area of ​​the Pemberton landslide. We are doing everything possible” in difficult conditions, Chris Manseau, a spokesman for the federal police in British Columbia, who is in charge of the rescue, told AFP.

A little further south, in Hope, a town isolated by rising waters and landslides, 200 people were evacuated on a specially chartered train to reach the Vancouver suburbs.

And others were able to leave the city by a highway reopened for a few hours to allow their evacuation.

– “Everything was under water” –

A road was flooded in the Sumas Prairie area of ​​Abbotsford, British Columbia, on November 18, 2021 (AFP – Philip McLachlan)

In Abbotsford, about 70 kilometers southeast of Vancouver, Henry Braun, the mayor warned that his city was “far from out of this situation.” “I’m not worried about the rain today. What worries me is next week. We expect between 80 and 100 mm” of precipitation, the mayor said.

About 600 people were evacuated from the 162,000 inhabitants of the city, adding hundreds more in recent days in the region.

“It was absolutely chaotic here yesterday. Everything was underwater,” Abbotsford resident Tyler Richard told AFP. “The streets were flooded. There were boats sailing in the park. It was completely unreal,” he adds, with a hood and a cap on his head.

On the streets of the largely deserted city, many people turned up Thursday to help the elderly or farmers in distress, an AFP journalist noted.

“I am especially sorry for all of our farmers. We have very large dairy farms and they are being asked to evacuate. They have livestock. They cannot just leave,” said Bill, also a resident of Abbotsford, concerned. Who did not wish to give his surname and rides a bicycle through safe streets.

Karl Meier, who owns a farm with 240 dairy cows, decided to return to his farm after being evacuated. He tells AFP that he was forced to dump the milk on Tuesday, and hope to have to start again on Thursday, due to lack of collection.

“There are no roads by any means. There are no trains either,” he lamented, concerned for his livestock.

Other herders have lost all of their animals drowned in the water in recent days.

Another point of concern in the region, the port of Vancouver, which handles around 3.5 million containers each year, said it suffered “major disruptions to rail and road traffic” due to damage caused by flooding. .

“This new disaster will lead to delays of two, three or four weeks”, analysis with AFP Jacques Roy, professor at HEC Montreal, recalling that supply chains are already weakened by the pandemic.

Across the border, the images also showed the cities of Bellingham and Ferndale in the United States in Washington state, underwater.

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