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