VANCOUVER – A city east of Vancouver is racing against time to build a levee as floodwaters rise and put more properties at risk following unprecedented rainfall in southwestern British Columbia.
Henry Braun, the mayor of Abbotsford, said Canadian Forces troops are expected to join contractors to help build the temporary 2.5-kilometre dike to keep out water from the overflowing Sumas River.
Braun said assessments on construction of the levee were expected to begin Friday in an effort to prevent further devastation to the Sumas Prairie farming area, which has experienced the highest levels of flooding.
“Time is the biggest challenge,” Braun said late Thursday, adding a forecast calling for up to 100 millimetres of rain next week is a big concern after existing dikes had broken.
“Until that hole is filled in the breach and the levee is built, the water continues to pour into the prairie,” he said.
The city will need access to between six and 12 homes in order to build the levy, he said, adding the process to contact owners was just beginning.
“One house is too much, and if it was my house I’d be concerned too. But there aren’t many options here.”
Speaking from Washington, D.C., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday night that 120 Canadian Armed Forces personnel had been sent to support relief efforts in Abbotsford.
A military reconnaissance group had also been dispatched to the provincial emergency operation centre in Surrey, and more than 200 troops were on standby in Edmonton awaiting orders to deploy.
Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Friday that interim measures are being set up with the United States to move commercial goods to B.C. after the flooding cut off access to multiple highways in the province.
“These interim measures are largely intended for Canadian domestic truck carriers that do not normally cross the border in the course of their business. Any Canadian carriers that currently operate between the United States and Canada as well as domestically are encouraged to follow the standard procedures,” Mendicino said.
The B.C. government was expected to provide more information Friday about the state of emergency it has declared after an atmospheric river hit parts of the province, bringing more rain in 48 hours than is normal during the entire month of November.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has said those measures could include an order preventing passage for all but essential travellers and commercial vehicles as limited access is slowly restored along some highways.
An estimated 17,000 people remain out of their homes as evacuation orders cover some 6,900 properties.
The province has announced that financial assistance will be available for people affected by the flooding and landslides.
Search efforts are continuing at a landslide along Highway 99 south of Lillooet where a woman’s body was recovered this week, and RCMP have said four people have been reported missing in that area.
©2021 The Canadian Press