B.C. flooding latest: Four people reported missing after mudslides

The RCMP say they have received four missing person reports since a mudslide on a highway Monday in British Columbia.

RCMP spokesperson Dawn Roberts says the reports are connected with the massive mudslide on Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lilooet.

One fatality has been confirmed in the mudslide.

SIKH COMMUNITY CHARTERS HELICOPTER TO DELIVER FOOD

Members of the Sikh community in Surrey, B.C., have come together during the province's flooding crisis to cook thousands of meals for hungry victims while also chartering a helicopter at their own expense to deliver the food to isolated communities.

A brigade of people, both young and old, have spent time preparing 3,000 meals per day in the kitchen of the city's Dukh Nivaran Sahib Gurdwara, while a steady stream of donated supplies have been coming through the place of worship.

With many highways shut down and access to communities affected by the flooding limited, paying for a private helicopter service seemed like it was the only way to deliver the goods to those most in need.

"So many people are stuck there and they have no food," Narinder Singh Walia, the gurdwara's president, told CTV News Vancouver. "We are trying to reach them with food and blankets and other stuff."

Walia said the group was planning to rent a plane Thursday to deliver supplies to Merritt and Kamloops.

They are asking anyone who wants to help by donating groceries to drop them off at the gurdwara at 15255 68th Ave. in Surrey. People can also donate money to help with the cost of the flights.

HOMES MAY BE DESTROYED TO BUILD LEVEE

Several homes may need to be destroyed to shore up a levee and prevent the Sumas Prairie from turning into a lake once again, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun confirmed on Thursday.

Braun told reporters the dike that protects the area has been breached and that a levee must be built as soon as possible.

The largest hole in the dike is approximately 100 metres long. The city plans to enlist the help of the Canadian Armed Forces to build a two-and-a-half-kilometre dike alongside Highway 1 starting Friday morning.

Braun estimated between six and 12 homes would need to be expropriated to complete the project.

"I sense you're looking for numbers, so I don't want someone to think it's 50 houses," he said. "One house is too much, and if it were my house I'd be concerned, too. But there are not many options here."

TOWN SAVES DOZENS OF CATS AND DOGS

Residents of the town of Princeton opened their homes to 76 cats and dogs in need of a place to stay.

The animals, all rescued strays, were being transported to the Lower Mainland over the weekend to be adopted out when this week’s storm hit. But the convoy only made it as far as Princeton as flood waters cut off roadways both in and out of town, leaving the furry creatures stranded.

Local farmer Bryce Hancock received a call from a friend asking if he could help.

"I went right over to my neighbours, they have a nice big shop, and I said, 'Guys, do you want to have a crazy adventure with me?' And they said, 'Sure,'” he told CTV News Vancouver. "We all unloaded the trucks, took all the animals out, cleaned them and walked them."

Hancock then wrote a post on Facebook asking if anyone would take in the critters.

"Within four hours ... we had 71 of 76 animals in temporary, loving homes," he said. "People just started showing up, it was just like a convoy of trucks and vans and cars, people wanting to help clean and help feed the animals."

The new foster parents will have to hold onto the animals until people from the Lower Mainland can retrieve their new pets. Hancock said many of the Princeton locals have already applied to keep the pets permanently.

MILITARY RESPONSE

Federal Defence Minister Anita Anand has confirmed that by the end of Thursday, 120 Canadian Armed Forces personnel will be on the ground in Abbotsford, B.C., to assist with the flooding emergency there.

"Over the next 30 days, and possibly longer if needed, the Canadian Armed Forces will be there to help the people of British Columbia through this crisis," Anand said.

"They can evacuate people to safety, offer help to those who are vulnerable, stranded or in distress, support critical provincial supply chains, investigate the impacts of flooding to help B.C.’s planning of relief efforts, and assist local authorities in protecting critical infrastructure."

Up to 350 personnel are ready to be deployed from Edmonton as part of the immediate response unit. There are currently two CAF-operated helicopters roaming the region conducting damage assessment.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS COMING

An order limiting some non-essential travel as the province recovers from the catastrophic flooding and landslides is expected in the coming days, according to deputy premier Mike Farnworth.

The government will be leveraging the special powers granted by the provincial state of emergency to restrict travel on storm-affected highways and routes that are gradually being reopened in a limited capacity.

"It's very much dependent on how roads are being cleared and being made available to reopen," he said. "It may be single-lane or alternating traffic, and obviously we want to ensure that the priority is for commercial vehicles, essential traffic -- and so the restriction would be in place in those particular locations."

Other measures could be implemented under the emergency declaration as well, Farnworth said, including "possible orders to prevent hoarding, to prevent price-gouging, similar to what we had to do during the COVID-19 emergency."

A list of current road closures can be found here

TRANSPORT CANADA ISSUES NOTAM

Transport Canada has also issued a notice to airmen to restrict all aircraft, including drones, from flying lower than 1,000 feet between Abbotsford Airport and Chilliwack Airport until midnight PST on Thursday.

The agency is also urging the public to “avoid unnecessary travel” to Chilliwack Airport at this time.

We have issued a #NOTAM restricting all aircraft, including #drones, from flying lower than 1000ft between #AbbotsfordAirport and #ChilliwackAirport until midnight Pacific time on November 18. Avoid unnecessary travel to Chilliwack Airport. #BCFloods pic.twitter.com/ywgx9kA2j1

— Transport Canada (@Transport_gc) November 18, 2021

 

MERRITT EVACUATION ORDER CONTINUES

Meanwhile, an evacuation order issued for the city of Merritt on Monday remains in place.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the city’s Mayor Linda Brown said she has “personally spoken” with Premier Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“They both expressed their thoughts of mourning, respect for the resiliency of Merrittonians, and commitment that the Province and Federal government stand with the residents of Merritt,” the statement reads.

Brown said the city has their support to address the communities “immediate and long-term needs.”

According to Brown, the city’s emergency operations team is now working to bring residents whose homes were not affected by the flood home, and then will work to allow for the “safe return of residents whose homes were inundated.”

“As soon as we can provide safe water and have toilets flush, we will bring you home,” Brown said.

Crews area also working to assess roads and bridges and home damage across the city.

They are also working to clean up debris.

Brown also said there is a “large contingent of RCMP in the community,” who are are primarily working on rescue operations and towards securing and protecting property.

Also on Wednesday, the Houston Street bridge was re-opened after inspection by an engineer. Though officials said the Main Street bridge remains closed to traffic.

VIA RAIL, CN HELP STRANDED EVACUEES

In an email to CTV News, Via Rail said the company worked with the Canadian National Railway (CN) Wednesday night to “organize an emergency evacuation program.”

Via Rail said Emergency Management B.C. needed a train to run on CN’s network to transport approximately 200 people who were stranded in the lower mainland region.

"CN reached out to VIA Rail in order to have a train evacuate the stranded people in Hope, B.C.," the email reads. "We are truly proud to have been able to offer our assistance during this emergency."

The company said “no more runs” were planned for Thursday.

With files from CTV News's Andrew Weichel, Ben Miljure, Ian Holliday, Alissa Thibault and Sarah Turnbull, and The Canadian Press