70 homes evacuated in B.C.'s flooded Fraser Valley
It may be up to three days before residents in the flooded B.C. Fraser Valley will be back in their homes.
The water levels remained stable last night following a declared state of emergency Thursday afternoon in Chilliwack.
As many as 75 homes have been evacuated in the area after heavy rain and rapidly melting snow combined to cause floods and mudslides in several neighbourhoods since Tuesday.
No one was hurt.
Another 20 to 70 homes are experiencing some form of flooding, and are uninhabitable.
Raging tides of debris
Pounding rains and melting snow have led to numerous mudslides. One swept through a house in Greendale while a family was asleep inside it.
Heather Sye said she almost died.
"I was choking on mud. I couldn't breathe. Like I said, I was literally drowning in the mud. I tried to get out but I kept getting pushed back in."
"It was devastating. Just like a crack of thunder. A big knot in your stomach...what's going on? The house is shaking," said Doug Ware.
The family escaped safely but one of their dogs was buried in the slide.
Help on the way
At a town hall meeting last night, Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz told residents they are not alone in these challenging times.
"You saw from the people here today a lot of tears," Gaetz said. "Resources are available to them."
Meanwhile, the provincial government is stepping in to try to help homeowners affected by flooding.
The government says it will extend up to $300,000 in disaster financial relief to residents who have been flooded out in the Fraser Valley and some communities on Vancouver Island.
"These dollars are available to assist homeowners for damage that is done by specific causes, running water from an overflowing river or creek. But only for damage that is uninsurable. So if there are impacts from snow load or others that are insurable, those are not eligible," said Minister of Public Safety John Van Dongen.
Melt causes health warnings across B.C.
George Rice with the Fraser Valley Health Authority says the flood waters could be contaminated with fertilizers, pesticides or diseases like ecoli in rural areas.
He says the waters could also carry chemicals from industrial areas, and is urging people who come in contact with the water to wash their hands and clothes immediately afterwards.
Public health concerns are also washing up in other parts of B.C., including Vancouver Island, where a public health warning was issued Thursday.
Officials say huge volumes of run-off have overwhelmed the sewage system, causing volumes of raw sewage to wash up on beaches near Victoria's eastern shoreline.
More to come?
More rain is expected in B.C.'s Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley over the weekend, but a respite this morning has given crews a chance to start clearing muck and debris that has blocked roads and plugged culverts.
B.C.'s south coast was covered with near record-setting snow and cold in December.
That has been followed by torrential rains so far this month that dropped more than 100 millimetres of rain in some areas.