‘Thought I was Lost’: Survivors tell harrowing stories of mudslides in Canada | Canada

Emergency teams in western Canada continued to search for victims of the flash floods and mudslides that ravaged the region this week as survivors described heartbreaking escapes after the disaster on Friday.

British Columbia declared its third state of emergency in a year on Wednesday after a month of rain fell in two days, inundating towns and villages, blocking major highways and leaving much of the province under water. ‘water.

Authorities have so far confirmed only one death, in a landslide near the village of Pemberton. But the startling testimony of a journalist who survived the incident suggests that figure is likely to rise.

Global BC cameraman Mike Timbrell was driving along a mountain road towards Vancouver on Monday as the storm raged.

After going through several small landslides, he finally came to a stop behind a line of cars. Other travelers had left their vehicles and appeared to be gathered around what appeared to be the aftermath of yet another landslide.

As he climbed back into his vehicle, Timbrell heard a “loud and terrifying roar” as a wall of snow and mud descended on the scene, knocking down trees – and engulfing motorists.

“My truck was going everywhere, getting hammered by the trees. I thought I was lost, “he said. Once the slide stopped, Timbrell got out of his car and started running.

“I turned around and looked at my truck and it was half buried and all the cars that were on the road and all the people, they were just gone. Here we go, ”he said.

“I couldn’t believe it, it was almost like – in the blink of an eye – there were roads, there were cars, there were people, and then bang, it was all gone, just gone. No car sign, no wheel, just trees and mud. It was all you could see, ”he said.

Accounts from survivors have revealed that even successful rescue operations are far more dangerous than the public had first realized.

Search and rescue teams aboard helicopters navigated through rain, high winds and thick cloud cover in what has been described as one of the largest mass air evacuations in the region’s history. More than 300 people stranded on Highway 7 were rescued during the operation, in which a pilot was forced to land a Cormorant helicopter within a meter of a broken power line pole.

“It was probably the narrowest confined area I have ever landed in,” Capt Jonathan Groten told The Globe and Mail.

A vehicle swept away by a landslide on Highway 7 near Hope is crushed in the debris. Photograph: Jesse Winter / Reuters

As water levels drop in some areas and crews scramble to clean up debris and assess damage to highways, many small communities across the province have remained cut off from road networks or without power.

Fire chief Jody Woodford of Tulameen, a village of less than 300 residents, told media on Thursday that the community has been without a phone reception for days and only the pockets have electricity.

“Some people got out of it and had to swim, ditch their vehicles and swim to dry land, then walk to the fire station.” she said.

In the province’s Lower Mainland, as emergency teams work to avert impending disaster at many farms in the area, the mayor of the city of Abbotsford has warned that homes could be destroyed in order to build emergency dikes after the previous barrier was broken.

“A house is too much. And if this was my home, I would be worried too. But there aren’t a lot of options here, ”he said. Work on the 2.5 km dike is due to start on Friday morning, with the help of dozens of soldiers.

Much of the area is on the former site of Sumas Lake, a large body of water that was drained in the last century. Four pumps are currently diverting water from the basin at a rate of half a million gallons per minute, but city officials feared earlier this week that they would fail, inundating the area with even more. ‘water.

Braun said the pumping station is still a concern as the waters of the Nooksack River continue to rise as it flows from the United States and heavy rains are forecast for early next week. “We didn’t get out of there by far,” he said.

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