HUNDREDS of people became trapped in their cars after mudslides surged onto a highway causing part of it to collapse following severe flooding in Canada.
Authorities have been forced to evacuate the city of Merritt, British Columbia, as widespread flooding wreaks havoc after heavy downpours – with a further eight inches of rain forecast for some areas.
Rescue efforts were launched to help at least 275 people, including 50 children, trapped since Sunday evening following two mudslides on Coquihalla, Highway 7 after torrential rain.
At least nine people have been hospitalised with minor injuries.
Helicopters were drafted into the operation after crews assessed how to safely get to road near Agassiz as multiple highways are closed due to the downpour.
British Columbia Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said: “They will be doing everything they can to ensure that they reach people who are trapped in their vehicles between those slides as quickly as possible.”
Martina Martinkova, who was trapped in her car with her daughter, told CBC she was “very stressed”.
“We don’t have any information,” she told the outlet.
“You see this in the movies, honestly, and you thought it will never touch you.
“It’s very scary.”
Meanwhile, Merritt, located 167miles northeast of Vancouver, issued an evacuation order for its 10,000 residents.
The city had to shut off water supplies due to contamination making it undrinkable following flooding.
And flooding in Abbotsford, British Columbia 44miles east of Vancouver, forced the evacuation of nearly 50 homes. The city opened a reception centre Sunday for affected residents.
Geotechnical engineers were also trying to assess several highways severed by landslides, while some communities that issued evacuation alerts were sandbagging and bracing for potential flooding.
Paula Cousins, the Ministry of Transportations representative for the Interior region, said the Highway 5 corridor between Hope and Merritt remain closed Monday due to slides and falling rocks after 200mm of rain since the weekend.
A local state of emergency has been declared in part of British Columbia’s eastern Fraser Valley, where unrelenting rainfall caused flooding, mud and rock slides and the closure of highways to and from the southern Interior.
Environment Canada said 225mm of rain had deluged the community of Hope since the storm began Saturday and 180mm had fallen around Agassiz and Chilliwack.
The District of Kent, which includes Agassiz, issued a local state of emergency after the landslides cut off Highway 7.
Flood warnings and watches were issued for areas from Merritt south to the United States border, the lower Fraser region and sections of southern Vancouver Island.
Rising rivers or landslides also prompted evacuation orders in Merritt, Agassiz, Abbotsford and in Princeton, where a dike burst Monday morning, forcing residents of about 200 properties from their homes.
The weather office said a further 50mm of rain could drench the eastern Fraser Valley, while rain, snow and wind warnings covered most of the southern third of the province.
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