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.
Crews are working to assess the debris and determine if additional victims may have been trapped in the flow.
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.
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.
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The Ministry of Transportation will be using airplanes to survey the area on Monday to determine the extent of the damage.
“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.”
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.
Support systems are being set up for residents in Kamloops if needed, Farnworth said.
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.
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.”