Relentless rain battered Canada’s Pacific coast on Monday, forcing a town’s evacuation and trapping motorists as mudslides, rocks and debris were washed across major highways.
This handout photo taken and released on November 14, 2021 by the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Safety shows a mudslide closing Highway 1 between Popkum and Hope, east of Chilliwack, Canada. – Relentless rain battered Canada’s Pacific coast on November 15, 2021, forcing evacuations and sending mudslides, rocks and debris across highways that left motorists trapped east of Vancouver. (Photo by Handout / British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Safety / AFP)
“Heavy rains and subsequent mudslides/flooding have impacted various highways in the BC interior,” British Columbia’s transportation ministry said on Twitter.
Rescuers were deployed to free people trapped for hours in 80-100 cars and trucks between two mudslides near the town of Agassiz, the province’s safety minister, Mike Farnworth, told a news conference.
“We are looking at the possibility of air rescues if needed,” he said, adding that “high winds may challenge these efforts.”
Farnworth said there had been “multiple rain-induced incidents” in the southwest and central regions of the province, describing the situation as “dynamic.”
In the city of Abbotsford, outside Vancouver, authorities ordered more than 100 homes evacuated in several neighbourhoods threatened by flooding and mudslides.
The town of Merritt, 290 kilometres (180 miles) east of the coastal city, also ordered all 7,000 of its residents to leave after their wastewater treatment plant was compromised and two bridges were washed out, according to a statement.
Emergency centers were set up for displaced residents of both communities.
Environment Canada said up to 250 millimetres (almost 10 inches) of rain was expected by the afternoon in and around Vancouver, which was also hit last week by a rare tornado.
“A significant atmospheric river event continues to (bring) copious amounts of rain to the BC south coast today,” it said.
“Heavy rain will continue this morning and ease this afternoon as the system moves inland.”
Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan said strong winds gusting up to 90 kilometers per hour (55 miles per hour) could cause widespread power outages.
The extreme weather comes after British Columbia suffered record-high temperatures over the summer that killed more than 500 people, as well as wildfires that destroyed a town.