Canada landslide leaves at least one dead after heavy rain

Body of a woman has been recovered from landslide caused by heavy rainfall in British Columbia

The body of a woman was recovered after a landslide caused by extremely heavy rainfall in the Pacific coast Canadian province of British Columbia, authorities said on Tuesday.

Police said search and rescue personnel were continuing to look for other possible victims from Monday's slides.

“I am extremely concerned about the situation in British Columbia right now and what hundreds of families are going through; thousands are people are affected across the province by these extreme weather events,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

David MacKenzie, the Pemberton District Search and Rescue manager, said his team came across seven vehicles at the site of the landslide on Highway 99, near the town of Lillooet, and police were trying to determine if there were any other bodies.

“It is a significant amount of debris. It makes it very difficult for our search crews. The mud is up to their waist. I cannot recall our team being involved in anything like this in the past,” he said.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Staff Sgt Janelle Shoihet said the total number of people and vehicles unaccounted for has yet to be confirmed.

Investigators have received reports of two other people who are missing and other motorists might be buried in the slide, she said.

Jonathan Gormick, spokesman for the Vancouver Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team, said that while the road had been cleared of potentially trapped vehicles or people, they would now be searching the slide’s debris field.

About 300 people spent Sunday night in their vehicles and were carried by helicopter to safety on Monday.

Elsewhere in the province, Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun said impassable motorways were creating havoc in his city as police and firefighters try to move people to evacuation centres.

“It breaks my heart to see what is going on in our city,” Mr Braun said.

Declaring province-wide 'state of emergency' a possibility

Sunny skies followed two days of torrential storms that dumped the typical amount of rain that the city receives throughout November but the mayor said the water was still rising and Highway 1 would be shut down for some time.

British Columbia Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said provincial ministers would meet on Wednesday to consider declaring a province-wide state of emergency.

He said supplies such as food, cots and blankets were being delivered to the town of Hope, which is supporting about 1,100 people forced from their homes.

Mr Braun said he was worried about information he has received from officials in Washington state about water levels that have risen dramatically from the overflowing Nooksack River and over the Sumas dyke.

“When are we going to crest? When is it going to level off here? It is like a full cup of coffee. Once it is full, it keeps flowing over the sides,' he said.

The entire town of Merritt, with a population of 7,000 people, was forced to leave after the sanitation system failed. Several roads have been closed because of flooding or landslides.

Abbotsford police chief Mike Serr said officers removed some people from the roofs of cars awash in flood waters on Monday night but left some motorists in lorries because they were higher above the water.

“I was out there last night. You could not see where the side of the road was. We had one member put on a life-jacket and swim out towards a car that was overturned to bring someone back. And that was on a regular basis for about two hours,” Mr Serr said.

Updated: November 17th 2021, 11:54 AM
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