Evacuation orders were expanded Tuesday for one of British Columbia’s largest cities, as officials rescued hundreds of people stranded on highways by mudslides and floods caused by torrential rain.
In Abbotsford, a city of about 162,000 people near the Canada-US border, torrential rains have caused mudslides and flooding in many areas of the city, authorities there said. No injuries were reported, but late Monday night residents were asked to leave their homes and take cover at a convention center and high school in nearby Chilliwack.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Brown said at a press conference Tuesday that eviction orders have been extended to up to 1,100 homes. He said authorities in his city, with the help of Chilliwack residents, are “doing everything they can to minimize the impact of the floods.”
“Floods and mudslides have displaced a number of people,” he said, adding that Highway 1, a major link between Abbotsford and Chilliwack, has been closed.
He added that more than 80 families seeking shelter have registered their arrival at the Fraser Valley Trade and Exhibition Centre. “This is an uncertain and frightening time for the people affected,” he said.
Rescue operations continued on Tuesday, but emergency officials said rising floods had hampered them. Cars overturned and roads became impassable. Mr Brown said homes were hit by mudslides, and workers tried to block channels to prevent the flow.
Abbotsford borders the town of Somas in Washington state, where highways have also inundated and rivers swelled to the edge of their banks.
Mr. Brown said water from the Nooksack River in Washington state was crossing into Canada, flowing north and east and then draining into Somas Prairie. He said water levels have risen “significantly,” cutting off communities with no end in sight.
“Once it’s full, it flows constantly to the sides,” he said.
Hundreds of people were rescued from highways in British Columbia on Monday, after heavy rains caused mudslides that trapped people in their cars and prompted evacuations, officials said.
About 275 people who had been stuck since Sunday evening on Interstate 7 near Agassiz, a small area east of Vancouver, were taken to safety by helicopter, officials said. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the rescue operation had ended by nightfall.
The efforts at Abbotsford were similar to those made in other parts of southern British Columbia. Residents of Merritt, a city of more than 7,000 people located 170 miles northeast of Vancouver, were told Monday to leave their homes immediately after heavy rain caused the Coldwater River to overflow its banks.
The weather system resulted from an atmospheric river, part of the convergence of storms so vast that they swept from California to Washington and southern British Columbia.
A weather system that dumped heavy rain and triggered mudslides in Washington state over the weekend was moving inland on Tuesday and was over central Canada, said Mike MacFarland, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Seattle.
On Monday, MacFarland added, a second wave of rain flooded river valleys, turning them into large puddles.
“We have dry weather today and we don’t have any important weather systems coming for next week,” he said. “It will give a chance for all the rivers to recede, and it will give people a chance to recover from the floods.”