B.C. crews assessing damage, waiting for daylight as travellers trapped by landslides

November 15, 2021
Abbotsford opens evacuee reception centre, declares 'high alert' after floods and mudslides displace residents

Search and rescue crews are trying to assess the damage from landslides that left travellers trapped on a southern B.C. highway, though officials caution that rescue efforts aren’t expected until daybreak as they try to determine a safe way to reach those in need.

David Boone, the team director of the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Task Force team in B.C. and an assistant chief at the Vancouver Fire Department, said early Monday that his team hasn’t yet had a full view of the scope of the landslides and debris flow.

The landslides, which occurred on Sunday on Highway 7 near Agassiz, B.C., came as communities in southern B.C. dealt with heavy rainfall.

Boone said his team arrived to support members of the fire department in Agassiz, who had already rescued at least 12 people trapped in vehicles from the debris flow. Two others were rescued on the east side, by either a search and rescue team or workers from the fire department in Hope, he told CBC News Network.

“What complicates this situation is we have two slides on Highway 7 and we have people that were trapped in the debris … and some have been rescued,” Boone told CBC’s Heather Hiscox, noting that officials are not yet sure if there are other vehicles missing and other people who are not accounted for.

He said officials believe there are approximately 50 vehicles trapped on Highway 7 in between the two debris fields, with approximately two to three people in each vehicle.

Boone said he spoke to a nurse who was travelling in one of the vehicles who was doing assessments. The nurse found those they had seen were “safe and secure at this time.” People trapped between the slides have been urged to stay in their vehicles for now, he said.

Officials hope to survey from air

Boone, who noted that officials are “still a bit blind” on the full scope of the issue, said the stability of the ground and issues around hydro wires are complicating the rescue efforts.

He said it’s too dangerous to get close right now, noting that further assessments will come at daybreak.

“We’re assessing as to the best access points for us to make entry into the area,” he said, noting that rescue workers will co-ordinate with CP Rail as the best way in may be along a rail line.

“We won’t put our rescuers into the area until we determine it’s safe to do so,” he said, noting that they hope to be able to survey from the air later in the day.

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