By Jesse Winter
ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia (Reuters) -Canada deployed the air force on Wednesday to help British Columbia deal with massive floods that killed one person, with more rain expected in coming days.
Mudslides destroyed roads and bridges and severed access to the country’s largest port in Vancouver, disrupting global supply chains already struggling to deal with problems caused by COVID-19.
After a phenomenon known as an atmospheric river dumped a month’s worth of rain in two days, officials are concerned that another downpour could overwhelm a pumping station near Abbotsford, a city of 160,000 to the east of Vancouver, which has already been partly evacuated.
Mayor Henry Braun said the station was running at full capacity. Volunteers built a dam around the station overnight, he said.
“That will buy us some more time but if we had another weather event like we just went through, we are in deep doo-doo (trouble),” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Farmers in Abbotsford ignored an evacuation order on Tuesday and desperately tried to save their animals from rising waters, in some cases tying ropes around the necks of cows https://www.reuters.com/article/us-canada-flood-cattle/small-navy-of-farmers-stage-cow-rescue-in-flood-hit-british-columbia-idUSKBN2I220A and pulling them to higher ground.
Several places have been completely cut off and food was starting to run low in the town of Hope, 100 miles (160 km) east of Vancouver.
Pastor Jeff Kuhn said a quarter of the town’s 6,000 residents were seeking shelter.
“There is not much left in the grocery stores. They just can’t restock, there is no way to get through,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, saying that although some food had been airlifted in, there was just a day’s supply left.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while in Washington on a trip, said the federal government would help the province recover from what he called a “terrifically bad situation”.
Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the air force would move food, fuel, feed and water and supplies to communities while helping with sandbagging.
Hundreds of soldiers will be deployed, he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
BIGGEST PORT CUT OFF
The flooding is the second weather-related calamity to hit British Columbia in the last few months. A massive wildfire https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/canadas-infernal-summer-puts-climate-change-forefront-election-2021-09-01 in the same region as some of the devastation destroyed an entire town in late June.
Environmental scientists say wildfires are becoming more frequent and larger due to climate change. Combined with drought that has hit the province, the fires can limit the ability of soil and vegetation to absorb large amounts of water.
Canadian Pacific Rail and Canadian National Railway, the country’s two biggest rail companies, said the flooding has forced them to cut service to Vancouver, the country’s biggest port.
Vancouver’s port moves C$550 million ($440 million) worth of cargo each day, ranging from automobiles to containers packed with essential commodities.
The floods temporarily shut down much of the movement of wheat and canola from Canada, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters. The disruption could also hit exports of potash.
(Reporting by Jesse Winter in Abbotsford, British Columbia; David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Lisa Shumaker)
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