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Hundreds trapped on Sasquatch Mountain Resort after landslide cuts off road access

Hundreds trapped at B.C. ski resort after landslide shuts down road
Up to 500 people have been trapped for nearly 24 hours on Sasquatch Mountain Resort near Agassiz, B.C. due to a landslide that has blocked the only road to and from the ski hill. Resort spokesperson Shelby Lim joins BC1 with an update from the scene.

Up to 500 people are trapped at Sasquatch Mountain Resort near Agassiz, B.C., after a landslide cut off access to and from the ski hill Friday night.

But the Ministry of Transportation says it could take five to six days to restore just one lane of the road due to the extent of the washout.

The slide came down around 9:30 p.m. on Hemlock Valley Road between Snowmist Drive and the point two kilometres south of the resort, leaving the road impassable in both directions.

Shelby Lim, the resort’s marketing and communications director, said the mountain was especially busy because of the Sasquatch Club racing event planned for this weekend.

“We were expecting close to 250 extra families on the mountain,” she said, adding many of those families came up to the mountain Friday afternoon before the landslide happened.

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More than 200 racers were also anticipated to take part in the event, but many have been unable to make it up the mountain now.

READ MORE: Flooding after massive downpour leads to damage, states of emergency on B.C. South Coast

Lim said the resort’s cafeteria and restaurant remain open and are serving food and beverages, with the cafeteria being turned into a play area for kids. While power has been taken out, backup generators are keeping the lodge running.

She added staff are working to ensure everyone’s comfort and safety while they hunker down for what could be a long wait.

“I don’t think [the road reopening] is happening anytime before tomorrow, for sure,” she said. “I always like to be optimistic, but I really can’t speak to it.”
Landslide leaves hundreds stranded at mountain resort outside Vancouver
Landslide leaves hundreds stranded at mountain resort outside Vancouver

The road is owned by the Ministry of Transportation, which Lim says has sent a geotechnical team to assess the road and determine how long before crews clear the debris. There’s also the matter of repairing the section of road that has been damaged.

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In a statement, the ministry says it has assessed the road and is working to reopen a single lane for alternating traffic, but warned it will take approximately five to six days “due to the significant extent of the washout.”

“Residents of the Hemlock Valley community are advised to stay at home,” the ministry said. “People who are currently at the Sasquatch Mountain Resort are advised to stay at the resort until crews can clear the debris from the road for safe travel.”

Lim said a helicopter had been hired to take people off the mountain who desperately needed to leave, taking 12 people at a time.

READ MORE: Coquihalla Highway reopened after earlier flooding, road debris

Bryan Zutz went up to the mountain Friday with his family with the intention to come back home Sunday, but says the road closure made him “start to freak out a bit.”

“I do want to get back to work, paycheques don’t generate themselves,” he said. “It’s a little stressful.”

Zutz says people are still being charged for food, and is not sure whether accommodation will come with costs as well.

He said he and his family intends to take the helicopter off the mountain Sunday.

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Lim remained hopeful some access can be restored soon, as emergency services also remain out of reach.

“With the road being washed out, if there’s any kind of accident, injury or anything like that, then we’re not able to get anyone up here,” she said.

“So for the safety of our guests, we’re unable to continue our operations at this time until the road gets back open.”

The landslide came down as heavy rains pounded the Fraser Valley and the rest of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island Friday, which lasted into Saturday morning.

Environment Canada says the Agassiz area received 97 millimetres of rain between Thursday afternoon and early Saturday, but the ministry put that estimate between 120 and 140 millimetres.

The impacts of the rains prompted the District of Kent to issue a local state of emergency Saturday, saying localized flooding and rockfall has damaged potable water infrastructure throughout the area.

Drinking water has also been cut off due to a water main break, and drivers are being urged to steer clear of Rockwell Drive to the unstable highway and fast moving waters.

Evacuation notices have been issued for a number of homes in the Rockwell Drive area.

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Several other roads have been flooded or washed out across the South Coast, with other landslides blocking major highways including parts of Highway 1 and the Coquihalla Highway.