Rob Shaw: Opposition decries Horgan government’s response to flooding disaster

Rob Shaw: Opposition decries Horgan government's response to flooding disaster

Residents of a low-lying area of Abbotsford, B.C., have been warned they face a significant risk to life and must get out immediately.

The city’s Mayor Henry Braun said in a news briefing Wednesday that conditions were dire overnight because a key pumping station was in danger of being overwhelmed.

The station was the only thing keeping water from the nearby Fraser River from engulfing most of the Sumas Prairie flats, he said.

“Right now, things are holding steady,” Braun said of the situation at the Barrowtown Pump Station. Crews spent Tuesday night sandbagging around the station.

“I’m feeling much better today than last night,” he said, although he cautioned the danger has not passed and river levels, which have dropped two metres since the storm ended, must drop another metre before flood gates can be opened to allow even more water to escape.

An evacuation order was issued for about 1,000 properties in the Sumas Prairie area Tuesday when a severe weekend rainstorm pushed up water levels in the area that is home to many large dairy and poultry farms and other agricultural operations.

Abbotsford Fire Chief Darren Lee said about 180 rescues were completed Tuesday and early Wednesday as trapped residents asked for help to leave their flooded properties.

“Overnight we actually brought in additional helicopters when we realized the flooding was worsening in the east Prairie area,” he said.

Three helicopters carried people to safety overnight, said Lee, while 11 teams in boats also brought out trapped residents.

No one was unaccounted for, said Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr.

About 80 callers were still awaiting help by daylight and responders planned to “work through the queue” through the morning, he said.

Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Canadian Forces air support personnel will be sent to B.C. to help with evacuation efforts.

They will also assist in supporting supply chain routes and protecting residents against further floods or landslides, Blair said in a social media message.

Defence Minister Anita Anand confirmed Canadian Forces crews had been approved in response to a request for assistance from the B.C. government.

Provincial Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the B.C. cabinet would meet Wednesday to consider whether to declare a provincewide state of emergency in response to floods, washouts and landslides.

Every major route between the Lower Mainland and the Interior has been cut by washouts, flooding or landslides following record-breaking rainfall across southern B.C. between Saturday and Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2021.

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