Following disastrous floods and mudslides in Canada's British Columbia that took the life of at least one person and thousands of farm animals, emergency crews in the western area of the nation were still trying to reach 18,000 people stuck by landslides and scrambling to find food in empty grocery store shelves, The Guardian reported.
One person was confirmed killed in a landslide at Pemberton that washed vehicles off the road, but with so many more missing and searchers still combing through the wreckage, the number is expected to rise. Meanwhile, residents in already-flooded areas brace for further rain the next week.
Residents believe the previous days have shown the vulnerability of tiny towns to natural disasters exacerbated by climate change as the military joined the attempt to rescue thousands of people stranded by floods. Due to the closure of most highways, the bulk of Merritt's 7,000 residents travelled to Kamloops, where they were promised that shelter and warm food were available. Stories began to trickle back from the front of huge lines looking for refuge. Major routes in the province's south-western districts have been washed out, trapping passengers for days.
On Wednesday, British Columbia's premier, John Horgan, proclaimed a state of emergency. Mike Farnworth, the province's public safety minister, delivered an emotional speech on Thursday, saying, "This has been a terrible terrible disaster but I know this; as British Columbians, as Canadians, we stick together. I want to come out of this. I’m going to build a stronger better province and a stronger and better country," The Guardian reported.
On Monday, torrential rain lashed Canada's Pacific coast, forcing the evacuation of a town and trapping travellers as rocks, mudslides and debris poured across major roadways. According to local media, 275 individuals were trapped overnight in their cars between two mudslides on Highway 7 near Agassiz, British Columbia. Meanwhile, Merritt, around 300 kilometres (185 miles) from the coast, ordered the evacuation of all 7,000 residents after flooding damaged the local wastewater treatment plant and washed out two bridges. Barricades were also erected to block entry to the settlement.
Authorities in Abbotsford, outside Vancouver, ordered the evacuation of more than 100 homes in multiple communities threatened by flooding and mudslides, while television footage showed farms in the Fraser Valley submerged under several feet of water. Meteorologist Tyler Hamilton noted on social media that Abbotsford had seen both its warmest and wettest days in the previous 140 days. Environment Canada predicted up to 250 millimetres (nearly 10 inches) of rain in and around Vancouver by the end of the day, which was also battered by a rare tornado last week.