Search continues for four people missing after record rainfall in Nova Scotia

Search continues for four people missing after record rainfall in Nova Scotia
Abandoned cars in a mall parking lot are seen in floodwater following a major rain event in Halifax on Saturday, July 22, 2023. Nova Scotia RCMP say the search continues for four people, including two children, after intense thunderstorms dumped record amounts of rain across the province.

A search was focused on a flooded Nova Scotia field Sunday for four people, including two children, reported missing after parts of the province were swamped by torrential rains.

RCMP Cpl. Guillaume Tremblay said efforts were continuing in the area of West Hants, a largely rural municipality northwest of Halifax where the people were reported missing in separate incidents on Saturday.

Tremblay said a dive recovery team conducted an underwater search of the field Saturday evening and located an unoccupied pick-up truck believed to be the vehicle the children were travelling in.

He said the truck was submerged in over two metres of water, adding the search was continuing in the same area for all four people and a second vehicle.

“We are talking about flood waters that have zero visibility, so that definitely makes searching difficult where divers have to do a search according to touch,” Tremblay said in an interview. “We are mobilizing industrial (pumping) equipment to try to lower the water levels.”

Police were being assisted by a team from the Department of Natural Resources and ground search and rescue teams from West Hants, Colchester and Valley, he said.

“We’re going to keep searching and we’re not going to give up hope,” Tremblay said.

Police did not release any details about the four missing people.

They said earlier the children were with three other people who managed to escape from a vehicle that got stuck in floodwaters. A second vehicle carrying four people was also submerged and two people escaped, but a youth and a man remain unaccounted for.

“Our heart goes out to the families, it’s hard to even fathom what a person thinks or feels when faced with that situation,” Abraham Zebian, Mayor of West Hants Regional Municipality, said in an interview. “We are just praying for a good (search) result.”

Zebian also confirmed that a municipal evacuation order that had been issued for the area was lifted early Sunday. People were allowed to return to their homes and businesses, he said.

The mayor said while municipal infrastructure fared well during the storm, the same couldn’t be said for roads and highways in the area which sustained significant damage.

“Multiple roads have been washed out, multiple bridges are gone, shoulders on provincial roads are completely wiped out,” he said. “… (damage) is so substantial that it’s an immediate danger risk if somebody isn’t paying attention. It’s going to be a process to clean it up.”

Environment Canada meteorologist Bob Robichaud said the heavy rain, which began Friday, dumped between 200 and 250 millimetres along the province’s South Shore, across the Halifax area and into central and western parts of Nova Scotia.

He said the weather system was expected to pass through Cape Breton and out of the province by mid-day Sunday after drenching the island and eastern Nova Scotia with about 175 millimetres of rain.

Robichaud said drier conditions are in the forecast.

“We should have at least four days of little to no precipitation at all,” he said. “It’s probably going to take several days for all of this water to make its way into the ocean … there are still areas (lakes, rivers) where the water is probably going to be increasing in level for a day or so before it all makes its way down to the ocean.”

Premier Tim Houston declared a provincewide state of emergency on Saturday, which will remain in effect until Aug. 5 unless the government terminates or extends it.

Hammonds Plains, Bedford and Lower Sackville were the hardest hit areas of the Halifax region where more than 200 millimetres of rain flooded roads, parking lots and sports fields.

Halifax Regional Police warned people to stay away from flooded areas near a Bedford mall, calling conditions “hazardous and unsafe.”

“We understand residents are attempting to retrieve vehicles left from the flash flooding, however many of these areas remain unsafe,” police said in a news release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2023.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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