Massive rainstorms have lashed the western Canadian province of British Columbia on Monday, triggering landslides, shutting roads, prompting the evacuation of an entire town and forcing an oil pipeline to close.
Authorities in Merritt, some 200km (124 miles) northeast of Vancouver, ordered all 7,100 citizens to leave after rising waters cut off bridges and forced the wastewater treatment plant to close.
“Continued habitation of the community without sanitary services presents risk of mass sewage back-up and personal health risk,” the city said in an official notice.
Some areas received 200mm (8 inches) of rain on Sunday – the amount they usually see in a month – and the deluge continued on Monday, with roads covered by mud or up to 250mm (10 inches) of water.
“Heavy rains and subsequent mudslides/flooding have impacted various highways in the BC interior,” British Columbia’s transportation ministry said on Twitter.
The storms forced the closure of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which takes crude from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. The line has a capacity of 300,000 barrels per day.
Work on a proposed expansion project has also been halted, the operating company said.
Rescuers were deployed to free people trapped for hours in 80-100 cars and trucks between two mudslides near the town of Agassiz, the province’s safety minister, Mike Farnworth, told a news conference.
People may have to be airlifted out, he said, although high winds could “challenge these efforts”.
“The side of the mountain has just come apart,” stranded motorist Paul Deol told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Farnworth said there had been “multiple rain-induced incidents” in the southwest and central regions of the province, describing the situation as “dynamic”.
“It is very difficult weather.”
Approximately 29km (18 miles) further east, footage posted to Facebook showed parts of a road had been washed away near the town of Hope.
In the city of Abbotsford, outside Vancouver, authorities ordered more than 100 homes evacuated in several neighbourhoods threatened by flooding and mudslides.
Gales are due to hit the area later, most likely causing power outages, officials said.
The storm is the second weather-related calamity to hit the Pacific province in just a few months. In late June, temperatures hit a record high killing more than 500 people and prompting blazes that destroyed one town.