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Water levels drop in Merritt, B.C. but evacuation likely to last a week or more, says city

Click to play video: 'First fire, now floods: People of Merritt, B.C. on the move again after city becomes submerged' First fire, now floods: People of Merritt, B.C. on the move again after city becomes submerged
WATCH: The floodwaters are slowly starting to recede in Merritt, British Columbia, just months after wildfires destroyed the city. Heather Yourex-West spoke to some evacuees about how they're coping – Nov 16, 2021

Water levels are quickly dropping in Merritt, B.C., providing local officials and residents a glimpse of the extent of damage from floods.

As of Tuesday, the south-central B.C. city was still without potable water or functional sanitation systems, and evacuated residents were warned it could be a week or more before they can return home.

“All this means is that we’re getting to a point where we can start thinking about assessing the damage, looking at what needs to be done to our infrastructure, to our wastewater plants,” said Greg Lowis, Merritt’s director of corporate services.

Read more: ‘No highways to get me home’: More than 100 truckers trapped in Merritt, B.C. due to floods

Merritt was evacuated Monday after two days of torrential rain swallowed streets, houses and vehicles, displacing thousands of people.

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According to the city’s website, there is still “significant danger” despite the receded waters, and all bridges over the Coldwater River have been shut down due to structural integrity concerns.

The Middlesboro Bridge has already collapsed, isolating the neighbourhood of Collettville from the rest of the city.

Click to play video: 'B.C. floods:  Most of Merritt underwater, as thousands  forced to evacuate and many other communities inundated' B.C. floods: Most of Merritt underwater, as thousands forced to evacuate and many other communities inundated
B.C. floods: Most of Merritt underwater, as thousands forced to evacuate and many other communities inundated – Nov 15, 2021

Anyone who did not evacuate Collettville on Monday must now shelter in place, said Lowis.

“Frankly it’s not a good position to be in right now for anyone who was ordered to leave and stayed behind,” he told Global News.

“Unfortunately some people did not leave when they were ordered to but we do believe the vast majority got out safely in time.”

Read more: Current status of B.C.’s major highways and roadways as routes remain closed

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Bridge inspections will take place over the next two days and the city will restore water and wastewater systems as soon as possible, it said.

The city is very concerned about contamination, Lowis added, especially downstream.

Many residents have now been taken to Kamloops and Kelowna, B.C. as remaining accommodations in the region fill up.

Click to play video: 'From the air: The extent of the flooding in the Whatcom Road area of Abbotsford' From the air: The extent of the flooding in the Whatcom Road area of Abbotsford
From the air: The extent of the flooding in the Whatcom Road area of Abbotsford – Nov 16, 2021

Some, however, were stranded at a gas station in Merritt on Tuesday afternoon where supplies like food and water dwindled.

“I mean, what are people supposed to do for washrooms around here? You just can’t have people going out into the middle of the parking lot going to the bathroom,” said truck driver David Rusch.

The City of Merritt is asking all evacuees to register on the provincial Evacuee Registration and Assistance system or to contact 1-800-585-9559 for more information.

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