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Canadian military boosts air support to help B.C. flood evacuations, supply chain chaos

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The Canadian military is sending more air support to help B.C. residents struggling under devastating floods that have overwhelmed the province and cut off vital transportation links over recent days.

Defence Minister Anita Anand said Wednesday that in response to a request for help from the B.C. government, the federal government is deploying more military air support crews to assist with the crisis.

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READ MORE: Reopening of Coquihalla Highway could take ‘weeks or months’ due to flood damage

“In response to a request for assistance from the province of British Columbia, CAF personnel and resources will help residents as they experience floods, landslides and extreme weather,” she said in a tweet, though did not specify the resources being deployed.

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Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the support would focus on assisting “with evacuation efforts, support supply chain routes, and [to] protect residents against floods and landslides.”

Three military helicopters and a search-and-rescue aircraft were sent into the Fraser Valley earlier in the week after hundreds of people were trapped on roads and cut off from help by landslides.

According to the Royal Canadian Air Force, the aircraft and crew were able to evacuate a total of 311 people as well as 27 animals to safety in the city of Agassiz.

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A spokesperson for the Canadian Forces told Global News details of the deployment are still being worked out but that it will be a new and distinct federal assistance effort.

Another spokesperson with Canadian Joint Operations Command said it is still too early to offer specifics about what assets will be deployed, but noted the expected focus will be on the infrastructure devastation caused by the floods — severely damaged roads and landslide sites, for example.

Examples of support that could come include transport assistance, logistics chain support to get resources from one point to another, and humanitarian aid, though details remain to be settled.

READ MORE: What’s behind all the downpours on the ‘wet coast’ this fall?

The province is grappling with catastrophic damage from severe rainfall over the course of Sunday and Monday that has flooded whole communities and washed out vital transportation links connecting the cities of the province, and connecting Vancouver to the rest of the country.

The Coquihalla Highway is snapped in two from the flooding and could take weeks to months to restore.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the crisis during a trip to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday and said the federal government will be there to support the province with the resources needed on the ground.

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“But also we’ll be there for the cleanup and the rebuilding after,” he said.

“After these extreme weather events, it’s really going be important Canadians continue to do what we do, which is being there for each other in this difficult situation.”

He said officials are also working with counterparts in the United States to find ways to divert those cut off from B.C. roads that have been destroyed by landslides and flooding, as well as to try to limit supply chain challenges.

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More to come.

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