Premier John Horgan has officially declared a state of emergency in British Columbia following historic rainfall, flooding and landslides that have forced thousands of people from their homes.
“The last few days have been incredibly difficult for British Columbians as we face yet another natural disaster,” said Premier Horgan in a live press conference on Wednesday.
According to Horgan, the order will preserve basic access to services and supplies for communities across the province.
Along with the state of emergency, Horgan says the government intends to bring in travel restrictions while also ensuring that transportation of essential goods and medical services are able to reach the communities that need them.
“Please do not hoard items,” stated Horgan. “What you need your neighbours need as well. We’re confident we can restore our supply chains in a quick and orderly manner provided we act as we have been acting over the past two years.”
The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days and may be extended or rescinded as necessary.
Multiple highways remain closed across B.C. as a result of the severe weather that hit earlier this week and the government continues to push the message to not travel unless it is essential.
“This is not the time for leisure travel. Our transportation infrastructure is crippled and we need to ensure that it comes back online as quickly as possible and we are prioritizing essential access,” says Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.
Farnworth adds that the natural disasters occurring across the province are “catastrophic” and calls upon British Columbians to work together and support each other in order to get through it safely.
Minister of Transportation, Rob Fleming, also notes that amid this emergency, BC Ferries will be adding sailings specifically for cargo out of Duke Point to Swartz Bay in order to connect the mid-Island to the South Island as the Malahat undergoes roadwork as a result of water damage.
Fleming says that extra sailings will be added on the Mill Bay-Brentwood Bay route in the interim as well to help alleviate traffic along the Malahat as well.
So far, there has been one confirmed fatality as a result of the natural disasters in B.C., however, Horgan says that authorities are anticipating more deaths be confirmed in the coming days.
As a result of major floods and mudslides, B.C. has formally requested assistance from the federal government as well in order to utilize resources and aid British Columbians during this time of need.
The deployment of federal resources will include the Canadian Armed Forces, according to Horgan, in order to assist with evacuations, managing of supply chains, security in inundated areas, as well as restoration of safe drinking water and other logistics assistance.
Horgan said he connected with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, who offered federal support prior to British Columbia making a formal request.