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Helicopter rescues begin for about 275 people trapped between mudslides in Agassiz, B.C.

Click to play video: 'Hundreds trapped in B.C. after torrential rains bring landsides'
Hundreds trapped in B.C. after torrential rains bring landsides
WATCH ABOVE: On Canada’s west coast, torrential, prolonged rain has washed out highways, trapped hundreds of people in their vehicles and forced thousands of people from their homes. All major highways connecting the lower mainland to the rest of British Columbia are affected. Robin Gill is in Abbotsford with more – Nov 15, 2021

Crews rescued 12 people whose vehicles were trapped by debris from two mudslides that closed Highway 7 between Agassiz and Hope, B.C.

Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopters have started flights to rescue approximately 275 people, including 50 children, still stranded between the two slides, according to a statement from Canada Task Force 1 issued Monday morning.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said “progress has been made” in getting people to safety.

“We know it’s difficult but help is on the way,” he said.

Click to play video: 'B.C. man captures Highway 7 washout and trapped vehicles'
B.C. man captures Highway 7 washout and trapped vehicles

Crews are working to assess the debris and determine if additional victims may have been trapped in the flow.

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B.C. public safety and transportation officials say it is still unclear when major highways across the province will re-open amid the heavy rain, flooding, mudslides and rockslides.

Farnworth said Monday morning that it is too early to determine the extent of the damage.

“We will have more on that as the day unfolds. This is a significant storm. Is it the largest? We do not know yet,” Farnworth said.

Read more: Flooding and mudslides in B.C. wreak havoc on highways, forcing evacuations

Click to play video: 'Flood watches, rainfall warnings as atmospheric river drenches southern B.C.'
Flood watches, rainfall warnings as atmospheric river drenches southern B.C.

Officials said they don’t know when the Coquihalla Highway, a major thoroughfare between B.C.’s Lower Mainland and the Interior that has suffered major mudslide damage, will re-open.

The Ministry of Transportation will be using airplanes to survey the area on Monday to determine the extent of the damage.

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“Crews were out both at the local level and the provincial level as water levels rose during the weekend,” Farnworth said. “Local government are assessing in their local communities.”

An evacuation order has been issued for the entire city of Merritt. The flood waters have now inundated two bridges across the Coldwater River, and flood waters prevent access to the third.
Click to play video: 'Dozens of travellers left stranded on B.C. roads after heavy rain, mudslides'
Dozens of travellers left stranded on B.C. roads after heavy rain, mudslides

The high flood waters have rendered the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant inoperable for an indefinite period.

“Our staff have been working diligently throughout these changing circumstances with one main priority in mind: the safety and wellbeing of our residents,” a statement from the city reads.

Read more: Mudslides, flood watches, rainfall warnings as atmospheric river drenches southern B.C.

Click to play video: 'Princeton, B.C, mayor says majority of town underwater after dike bursts'
Princeton, B.C, mayor says majority of town underwater after dike bursts

Support systems are being set up for residents in Kamloops if needed, Farnworth said.

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The City of Princeton has been severely flooded, where 290 homes are under evacuation order and 100 on evacuation alert.

Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan told the news conference that precipitation has been 200 per cent of normal over the last two months.

Click to play video: 'Dozens of travellers left stranded on B.C. roads after heavy rain, mudslides'
Dozens of travellers left stranded on B.C. roads after heavy rain, mudslides

Some communities will have more rain during this weather event than they normally get during the entire month of November, he said.

“We are expecting the continued rain today through much of the day and tapering off later in the afternoon,” Castellan said, adding that gusts between 70 to 90 kilometres an hour are expected later.

“The water is rising is so quickly, it’s challenging our culverts,” Ministry of Transportation deputy regional director Janelle Staite said.

“If people do not need to be on the roads, stay home. It is very inconsistent and changing on the roads.”

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