Canada’s federal government has pledged to help flood-hit British Columbia as the province faces more rain from Monday.
The Canadian Armed Forces is sending more than 500 soldiers and has 12 aircraft operating to assist in the relief effort for at least 30 days, with thousands of additional troops available if needed, and federal ministers including Bill Blair, the minister for emergency preparedness, and Anita Anand. The Minister of National Defense said in a press conference Sunday.
The government is also waiving the requirement to be tested for Covid-19 to return to Canada for people living along the border who cross into the United States for essential supplies such as fuel and food.
The measures came as Vancouver, Canada’s third largest city, and surrounding areas braced for more rain after a week of deadly flooding that left residents of southwestern British Columbia under fuel rationing and travel restrictions. Blair said 20 to 40 mm (1.2 to 1.6 inches) of rain is expected in areas of the province on Monday and Tuesday.
“There is a possibility that that water will make its way to the affected areas,” he said. “The earth is completely saturated and at the moment, there is nowhere to go.”
The so-called once-in-a-century storm washed away parts of highways, closed two major railroad tracks in Canada and killed at least four people after a mudslide. The province – a key conduit for Asian markets and home to one of the busiest ports on the West Coast – is in a state of emergency after last week’s flood.
The damage to infrastructure cut off the region from the rest of the country by road for days, and on Friday prompted the county to announce fuel rationing for vehicles. Blair said the floods had killed tens of thousands of farm animals and “devastated” farmland.
Cars line up at filling stations in Vancouver and the surrounding coastal area after a 30-liter (8 gallon) fuel limit was announced per visit, and the restrictions will continue for the next nine days. The province also issued a ban on non-essential travel on three major highways even as some roads from the coastal region inland were gradually repaired and reopened.
Parts of the province ran out of fuel pumps on Saturday amid panic buying as residents watched highways become impassable, and key oil and fuel infrastructure shut down. Most gas stations in the capital, Victoria, had fuel and power by Sunday after they had “limited fuel options” on Saturday, according to GasBuddy, which tracks retail gas stations in the United States and Canada. Fuel options remained limited at some stations in the hard-hit Chilliwack area on Sunday, or they ran out of fuel.
–Assisted by Marcy Nicholson and Natalie Ubiko Pearson