Rains in Canada’s British Columbia triggers landslides, shuts roads and oil pipelines

Rains in the Canadian province of British Columbia triggered landslides, shut roads, prompted evacuation of an entire town and forced an oil pipeline to shut down.

Authorities in Merritt, some 200km northeast of Vancouver, ordered all 7,100 citizens to leave after rising waters cut off bridges and forced the wastewater treatment plant to close.

“Continued habitation of the community without sanitary services presents risk of mass sewage back-up and personal health risk,” the city said in an official notice.

Some areas received up to 8 inches of rain on Sunday, an amount it usually sees in a month and the deluge continued on Monday, with roads covered by mud or up to 10 inches of water.

“Heavy rains and subsequent mudslides/flooding have impacted various highways in the BC interior,” British Columbia’s transportation ministry said on Twitter.

The storms forced the closure of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which takes crude from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. The line has a capacity of 300,000 barrels per day.

Work on a proposed expansion project has also been halted, the operating company said.

Rescuers were deployed to free people trapped for hours in 80-100 cars and trucks between two mudslides near the town of Agassiz, the province’s safety minister, Mike Farnworth, said in a news conference.

People may have to be airlifted out, he said, although high winds could “challenge these efforts”.

In the city of Abbotsford, outside Vancouver, authorities ordered more than 100 homes evacuated in several neighbourhoods threatened by flooding and mudslides.

Strong winds are due to hit the area later, most likely causing power outages, officials said.

The storm is the second weather-related calamity to hit the Pacific province in just a few months. In late June, temperatures hit a record high killing more than 500 people and prompting blazes that destroyed one town.