Latest on B.C. floods: Premier urges residents to ‘do the right thing’ and not hoard groceries

British Columbia Premier John Horgan announced a provincial state of emergency has been declared due to flooding that has displaced people from their homes and disrupted transportation routes.

“The order will preserve basic access to services and supplies for communities across the province,” he said during a news conference Wednesday.

Horgan also urged residents not to hoard food as some grocery store shelves apparently were already running bare.

“Do the right thing,” he said. “Listen to what your mom told you when you were little. Do unto others as you would have do unto you. Respect the fact that you do not need 48 eggs, a dozen will do, and leave the rest for somebody else.”

MORE FATALITIES EXPECTED

Flooding across the province has claimed at least one life thus far, and the province anticipates reports of further deaths as the recovery process gets underway.

“Sadly, we expect to confirm more fatalities in the coming days,” Horgan said.

On Tuesday, B.C. RCMP issued a statement saying the body of a woman was recovered from the scene of a mudslide along Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lilooet.

Police did not reveal the woman’s identity, but said she was from the Lower Mainland.

FARM ANIMALS PERISH

Thousands of farm animals have died as a result of the floods, and thousands more will be in “critical need of food” over the next few days, according to the province’s Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham.

“This is a very difficult time for agriculture in B.C. and our producers,” she said during Wednesday’s news conference.

“Over the last two days, I’ve been able to have FaceTime discussions with farmers, and some of them are in their barns, and some of their barns are flooded, and you can see the animals that are deceased,” she added. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Popham also promised disaster relief funds for farmers affected by the flooding and said that B.C. is working with the federal government, other provinces and private businesses to secure resources, including food and medical care, for any surviving animals.

BEACHED BARGE WON’T BE MOVED UNTIL THE WEEKEND

A runaway barge that ran aground of Sunset Beach in Vancouver after breaking free of its moorings during the storm won’t be moved until Sunday at the earliest.

The barge’s owner told CTV News the vessel was properly tied up and secured when the historic storm hit. They also said the challenge of moving it again is that the tide had surged to around 14.8 feet when the barge was grounded, and it isn’t expected to near that height again until the weekend.

Efforts to tug the barge away from the beach on Tuesday had failed.

The vessel drifted onto the beach about a kilometre away from the Burrard Street Bridge, prompting city officials to close the bustling bridge temporarily.

PATIENTS, LONG-TERM CARE RESIDENTS MOVED

Dozens of health-care patients and residents of long-term care homes have been moved away from flood zones, according to the province’s Minister of Health Adrian Dix.

About 200 people were moved from facilities in Merritt and Princeton, both of which were subject to evacuation orders.

“My deepest gratitude to emergency crews, health-care workers, health authority employees, B.C. Emergency Health Services and ministry staff for everything they’ve done over the past couple of days to keep people safe,” Dix said during a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday.

“This includes significant efforts to safely move patients and residents of long-term care and assisted living out of flood areas.”

DAM BUILT IN ABBOTSFORD BUT SITUATION STILL ‘CRITICAL’

Late at night Tuesday, officials in the city of Abbotsford issued an urgent plea to anyone in the Sumas Prairie to evacuate immediately, as flood waters threatened the Barrowtown Pump Station.

Officials said conditions in the Sumas Prairie area had “escalated” and posed a “significant risk to life due to the imminent failure” of the pump station.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said overnight 184 people were evacuated from the area, adding that those efforts are ongoing.

According to Braun, while the situation “remains critical,” crews and volunteers were able to build dam overnight to protect the pump station.

“The Fraser River in the last 24 hours has dropped two metres,” he said. “It needs to drop another metre before we can open up the floodgates at Barrowtown, which will allow seven times more volume than those four pumps working full tilt.”

He said if that happens within the next day, they will be able to relieve the pressure on Barrowtown Pump Station.

MILITARY PERSONNEL TO BE DEPLOYED

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Canada’s Minister of Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair, confirmed that a group of 300 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel will be deployed to help in B.C.

Blair said CAF members will assist with evacuation efforts, support supply chain routes and help protect residents in B.C.

Blair said he spoke with the province’s Minister of Public Safety, Mike Farnworth, to “let him know that we stand with British Columbians during this extremely difficult time and are working hard to provide the support they need as quickly as possible.”

EVACUATION ORDER IN MERITT CONTINUES

In an update posted Wednesday morning, officials in the city of Merritt said the evacuation order issued on Monday remains in place.

“City staff are focused on restoring vital services, including potable water, wastewater treatment, and bridge access,” the statement reads.

Greg Lowis, an emergency operations centre information officer said engineers will be in town on Wednesday to inspect those systems to determine what work needs to be done to “get them back online.”

“We know there are some people who have chosen to remain in Merritt, and are aggravated at the lack of services,” he said in the release. “Unfortunately, when those people chose to remain in a city that was under Evacuation Order, they chose to be here without drinking water, without waste water, and in some sections of the City without fire or ambulance response.”

Lowis said the city has “no capacity” to provide services to people who have chosen to remain in the community at this time.

TRAPPED MOTORISTS RESCUED

Approximately 300 motorists who were trapped along highways in the town of Agassiz due to mudslides have been rescued, Sylvia Pranger, Mayor of the District of Kent, told CTV’s Your Morning.

Of those people, Pranger said only a few have not yet found a hotel or billets to stay for the time being.

According to Pranger, officials do not know how many people are unaccounted for. She said officials are now undertaking a recovery effort in the area.

Pranger said the community is “doing very well,” all things considered.

HIGHWAY CLOSURES

In an advisory issued early Wednesday morning, BC Transportation issued a travel advisory saying a single lane of Highway 7 west of Agassiz has reopened to emergency vehicles only.

The agency asked the public to avoid the area while work to restore the highway continues.

A number of other road closures remained in place across the province, including parts of highways 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11 and 99.

RECOVERY EFFORTS UNDERWAY

Jim Mandeville is the senior project manager for Large Loss North America. He is helping co-ordinate recovery teams on the ground in B.C.

He told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday that crews are pre-positioning resources to help facilitate cleanup as the water “hopefully recedes shortly.”

Mandeville said, first and foremost, crews will work on restoring critical businesses.

“I mean, communities need to be able to buy food, they need to be able to buy gas, they need to be able to get money out of the bank and they need access to health care and critical life services,” he explained. “Without those things, people can’t go back to their homes no matter what state they’re in.”

Mandeville urged people to follow the advice and guidance of authorities.

“My advice is always listen to the authorities, when they say go — go,” he said. “You’re not only endangering yourself, you’re endangering the lives of the first responders that are going to come and get you out of there.”

With files from CTV News’s Kendra Mangione, Andrew Weichel and Alyse Kotyk, and The Canadian Press

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