About 150 residents have been displaced from their homes in the Halifax region as flash flooding caused by heavy rain has resulted in a significant amount of damage in the municipality.
In the rest of the province, the N.S. RCMP say four people are missing – two children, a youth and an adult – from two vehicles being submerged with water due to flooding in the Hants County region.
In one instance, three of five people in a vehicle were able to escape, but two children are now missing. In another incident, a man and youth are unaccounted for while two others were able to get to safety.
“Out of respect for the families we will not be releasing their identities or any additional personal information at this time,” a police statement says on Saturday afternoon.
In addition, Nova Scotia has declared a state of emergency for all the province, with special emphasis on Halifax Regional Municipality, East Hants, West Hants, Lunenburg, and the Region of Queens Municipality.
“The state of Emergency allows us to respond quickly when there are calls for more resources,” Premier Tim Houston said in a media briefing on Saturday afternoon.
“We got three months’ worth of rain in less than 24 hours. It came fast and it came furious. And it’s left a mark in many ways,” Houston said.
In a 5 p.m update from the Halifax Regional Municipality on Saturday, residents were being told to avoid driving as several roads were washed out as cars remain abandoned on streets and highways – resulting in dangerous driving conditions.
“There is a significant amount of damage and residents are advised to stay off the roads,” a release said.
“Extreme caution is also advised near the Sackville River and residents are advised to stay away from flood water in all areas.”
By Friday at 10 p.m., the Halifax Regional Municipality issued an emergency alert, asking drivers to stay off all roads and highways unless it was an emergency.
A torrential downpour, accompanied by persistent thunder and lightning, started around 3:30 p.m. Friday. By 8 p.m., the rain was still coming down in buckets, causing chaos for drivers and homeowners, and continued throughout the night.
In an interview with Global News on Saturday, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said he’s discussed the developments with Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston and the offices for both the Minister of Emergency Preparedness and the Prime Minister.
“We’re going to need some help,” he said. “The people here are strong, resilient … we have been banged around a little bit.”
Savage said he’s asking for people to stay home while first responders complete a clean-up around the municipality.
“We haven’t had all the reports in on whether there’s been injuries or god forbid, fatalities … but as much as possible, stay where you are now. If you need help, reach out for it.”
Houston also released a statement on Saturday afternoon, noting that “there is still the potential for more damage that could cause injury” as rain is expected to continue throughout the weekend.
“We want people to be safe,” he said.
“Right now, the best thing people can do is stay home, monitor weather and news reports and check in on your neighbours who may need assistance.”
The province said that the Emergency Management Office has been activated for the flood response.
“All critical partners, including municipalities, policing agencies, fire and rescue organizations, Nova Scotia Power, Environment and Climate Change Canada, telecommunications companies and others are at the table and supporting impacted communities,” a statement read.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke on Saturday about the flooding in Nova Scotia, saying “residents have seen their homes damaged, their safety at risk, and thousands of people without power.”
He adds that the federal government is “closely engaged with the government of Nova Scotia,” to be there for “whatever is necessary.”
Reports had more than 200 millimetres of rain falling alone for parts of Bedford on Friday evening.
“The amounts of rain received so far has varied dramatically across the province and even within the same county,” Environment Canada said in a statement.
“While the rain could be intermittent throughout (Saturday), occasional torrential downpours and embedded thundershowers could potentially give much higher amounts of rain locally.”
Environment Canada issued advisories for much of the province – but has since ended its rainfall warning for the Halifax area as of Saturday at noon.
Rainfall warnings remain in effect for central and eastern Nova Scotia, including Cape Breton.
Stephen Martin, a fire chief with the municipality, said many roads in the Bedford area are covered in water.
“And there’s more rain coming,” he said Saturday morning.
Officials in Halifax say the rain has already caused significant damage to roads and infrastructure. In some areas, submerged streets are littered with abandoned vehicles.
Nova Scotia’s emergency system sent out an evacuation order early Saturday morning for residents of the St. Croix area in Hants County due to a dam overflowing, but it has since been lifted.
Multiple helicopters have arrived in several Nova Scotia communities to assist with the evacuations of stranded individuals due to the excessive flooding in the area.
Len Hickey of Halifax’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre said responding RCMP officers requested helicopter assistance early Saturday morning around 3 a.m. in the Queens and Hants County areas.
“RCMP is still the lead and they’re responding to all of the calls but due to the flooding, some of the roads are washed out so it’s making it kind of difficult for their vehicles to come in and assist,” he said.
Hickey said three helicopters are assisting in the area, with two arriving from the 14 Wing Greenwood location in Annapolis Valley and one from Newfoundland.
“What they’re doing is assisting those that the RCMP can’t get to,” he said, adding that evacuated residents are currently being transported to community muster locations or medical centres, if required.
The city said all emergency flooding calls were currently being directed to Halifax Water at 902.420.9287.
“Call volumes remain high, and residents are asked for their patience,” the release continued.
Halifax’s transit system was also experiencing delays and detours due to extensive road damage.
Two evacuation centres have since opened in the Halifax area for residents experiencing power outages or flooding in their homes.
The Beaver Bank Community Centre on 1583 Beaver Bank Road and the East Dartmouth Community Centre on 50 Caledonia Road in Dartmouth will remain open until further notice, the municipality said.
Scores of images shared on social media show cars plowing through deep water. And one video from the Windsor Junction area north of Halifax shows firefighters standing on the roof of their submerged pumper truck.
At one point, more than 70,000 homes and businesses were in the dark as lightning strikes knocked out electricity.
Nova Scotia Power, the province’s privately owned electric utility, opened its emergency operations centre at 5 a.m.
Several ongoing events in the city have been postponed or abandoned due to the weather, including the North American Indigenous Games cancelling its closing ceremony on Friday and announcing the closure of its Cultural Village at the Halifax Common on Saturday.
The Halifax Wanderers have rescheduled their Saturday afternoon match to Sunday at 5 p.m.
The Halifax Pride Parade, which was originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon, has been postponed and will be rescheduled, according to the city’s most recent update.
“The Bedford Outdoor Pool is significantly damaged and in need of extensive repairs. The pool will remain closed until further notice,” the release added.
Environment Canada is forecasting an additional 20 to 30 milimetres of precipitation with a risk of thundershowers on Saturday. The rain is expected to end in the evening.
– With files from the Canadian Press
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