While crews work tirelessly to rescue those stuck in flood-ravaged regions of southern B.C. and get them back to safety, the province’s public safety minister is urging travellers to avoid areas hit by the atmospheric river weather event.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said in a news conference Tuesday (Nov. 16) that the 150 people stuck between two slides along Highway 7 near Agassiz have been rescued, and crews are continuing to help people evacuate Merritt and other areas along Highway 5.
“I encourage everyone to be flexible with their travel plans,” he said. “That said, now is not the time to travel.”
Every road closed connecting the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island to the rest of Canada are currently closed due to flooding.
Transportation Minister Rob Flemming said that geotechnical engineers are assessing the various arteries impacted by mud and rock slides before repair plans are created.
“That is our number one priority – getting our roadways back up in action,” he said, adding that heavy equipment crews are prepared to begin fixing roadways to get supply chains moving again.
Farnworth urged people to be patient, adding that the province is working on clearing truck routes to ensure goods and supplies can move.
Highway 3 currently appears the most promising to open, officials said, although an exact timeline was not detailed Tuesday. Highway 12 between Lillooet and Lytton, as well as Highway 99, have been approved by engineers for cleanup to begin in daylight.
On Tuesday, RCMP confirmed that one woman has died in a mudslide along Highway 99 near Lillooet. Police have urged witnesses or anyone else who has a loved one missing to contact them.
Crews are also working to create a corridor for emergency traffic between Hope and the rest of the Lower Mainland, officials confirmed.
State of emergency being considered.
Despite calls by First Nations and concerns around hoarding amid supply shortages already coming to fruition in parts of the Okanagan, Farnworth did not declare a state of emergency on Tuesday.
However, the minister told reporters it is under consideration in order for provincial decisions to be made in a more agile fashion, as well as ban non-essential travel.
If a state of emergency is to be called, this will mark the third to be called since 2020 in addition to the ongoing emergency in effect due to the pandemic, the wildfire emergency which lasted several months.
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