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'Worst weather storm in a century': What's next after B.C. flooding and mudslides


It was a natural disaster that took B.C. by surprise, officials say of a fierce fall storm that swept through the southern half of the province causing severe flooding and mudslides.

Speaking at an afternoon update on the impacts of the storm, Public Safety Minister and Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth said the impacts have been "significantly greater than expected."

"This has been an extreme weather event," Farnworth said, noting three landslides that cut off major routes and left dozens of motorists and passengers stranded, as well as unprecedented rainfall across Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Interior.

At least one person has died as a result of the storm – a woman's body was recovered from the site of a landslide near Pemberton – and thousands have been forced to leave their homes under evacuation orders.

Hundreds more had to be rescued from areas in B.C. by helicopter after two days of unrelenting rain saw rivers of mud and rock sweep down across high-traffic roadways.

In fact, the provincial minister of transportation said, it's been the "worst weather storm in a century."

Also at the news conference, Minister Mike Fleming said it's been an "unprecedented" weather event, and said as the province dried out Tuesday, the true impact was revealed. Specific repair plans will be needed, but structural evaluations by geotechnical engineers must come first before things can get moving again, he said.

The damage is significant in some spots, but crews are already preparing for the work that will get B.C.'s supply chain moving again.

"This is our number one priority, getting our roadways back up and in operation, and we will provide whatever resources are necessary to make that happen," Fleming said.

Specific timelines were not provided, but he said people will be updated as information becomes available. The Coquihalla Highway and Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon are likely to take the longest to reopen, due to the amount of damage noted.

He thanked the hundreds of people who've been involved in everything from rescues to road maintenance.

"The way people have come together is inspirational… These have been an extraordinarily challenging few days in our province, and there will be many weeks of recovery, working together, ahead," Fleming said.

Farnworth outlined the efforts undertaken so far, including 20 reception centres open around B.C. for those unable to return home.

There are several communities in states of local emergency, he said, and evacuation orders and alerts remain in place in some spots.

Search and rescue teams and Mounties are working together to sweep impacted areas, making sure no one was left behind, and some patients of health-care and long-term or assisted living facilities have been temporarily relocated.

Meanwhile, there are calls for a provincial state of emergency to be declared due to the extreme weather.

In a statement Tuesday, the First Nations Leadership Council said many B.C. nations are under evacuation order or alert, and struggling to navigate the complicated provincial emergency funding system.

"B.C. must deploy all available resources and enact extraordinary measures. This can only happen by declaring a state of emergency," the FNLC wrote.

So far, at least, no such state has been called. Top Stories

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