Western Canada braces for more torrential rain after deadly mudslides – The Guardian

Crews in British Columbia raced to clear debris from motorways and repair dykes as the Canadian province braced for more downpours on Sunday, just days after record rainfall led to the deaths of four people, brought parts of the province to a standstill and sparked shortages of food and fuel.

The western Canadian province declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after parts of the province were pummelled by a phenomenon known as an “atmospheric river”, dumping a month’s worth of rain in two days and causing floods and mudslides that swallowed bridges and stretches of highways, cut off entire towns and forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

The bodies of three men who had been swept away by landslides had been recovered, police said on Saturday, bringing the death toll to four people. A fifth person remained missing.

Provincial officials warned on Saturday that the rough weather was set to continue, with Environment Canada forecasting that a similar weather system was set to bring as much as 150mm of rain and 20cm of snow to parts of northern British Columbia.

The storm was forecast to turn south on Sunday, potentially resulting in heavy rains in some of the storm-affected areas, said the province’s public safety minister, Mike Farnworth. “I urge people to pay close attention to weather warnings, given the unpredictability that comes with climate change,” he added.

A house surrounded by flood waters in Chilliwack after record rainfall across the Canadian province of British Columbia.
A house surrounded by flood waters in Chilliwack, British Columbia. Photograph: Jesse Winter/Reuters

Last week’s storm came less than six months after the western Canadian province suffered record-high temperatures that killed more than 500 people and led to wildfires that gutted an entire town.

On Saturday, about 14,000 people from several communities in the province remained under evacuation orders. Residents in some areas were subject to temporary restrictions on fuel and non-essential travel, resulting in reports of long queues at gas stations.

The restrictions were aimed at easing tensions in the supply chain after the storm forced the closure of the Trans Mountain pipeline and cut two key rail lines that lead to Vancouver, Canada’s busiest port.

Farnworth called on residents in affected areas to limit their movement until 1 December by avoiding travel, working from home where possible and taking public transport. “Over the next 10 days we know that we have enough gas for essential vehicles and everyone else who needs it, if we are prudent and conserve where we can,” he said.

Members of the Canadian armed forces help move chickens at a farm in Abbotsford, British Columbia
Members of the Canadian armed forces help move chickens at a farm in Abbotsford. Photograph: Jonathan Hayward/AP

In Abbotsford, one of the municipalities that was hardest hit by the storm, crews were scrambling to patch up a 100-metre breach in a key dyke as forecasts said there could be 100mm of rain on Tuesday.

“That’s a concern, especially with the weakened dykes,” said the mayor of Abbotsford, Henry Braun. “If there’s 100 millimetres of rain, if it comes in 24 hours that’s a big problem. If it comes over three or four days, maybe we’ll be OK.”

The dyke is key to protecting Sumas Prairie, a low-lying expanse of fertile land created almost a century ago by the draining of a lake and which is now a major hub of Canadian agriculture.

The storms battered the area, engulfing barns and felling power lines into the flood waters. Thousands of animals died, while others remained trapped and in desperate need of food and water. On Saturday, Braun said that some farms continued to grapple with rising waters, pointing to one example where waters had risen eight inches overnight. “There’s still 2,500 cows in that corner, dairy cows, and [the farmers] are worried.”

British Columbia’s agriculture minister, Lana Popham, said the province was coordinating efforts to get supplies and veterinarians to the animals, with four tonnes of feed airdropped on Saturday to as many as 5,000 hogs in the area. She estimated that the province had secured enough feed to last “five to six” days.

“I think everyone understands it’s all hands on deck,” she added.

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Western Canada braces for more torrential rain after deadly mudslides – The Guardian

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