The death toll from massive floods and landslides that devastated parts of British Columbia is set to rise, with the Canadian province declaring a state of emergency and the federal government promising major help.
Authorities have confirmed one death after torrential rains and mudslides destroyed roads and left several mountain towns isolated. At least three people are missing. Some 18,000 people are displaced in the Pacific Coast province, Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said.
“We expect to confirm even more fatalities in the coming days,” British Columbia Premier John Horgan said, describing the calamity as a once-in-500-year event.
“We will bring in travel restrictions and ensure that transportation of essential goods and medical and emergency services are able to reach the communities that need them,” Horgan told a news conference, urging people not to hoard supplies.
The floods and mudslides also severed access to the country’s largest port in Vancouver, disrupting already strained global supply chains.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would help the province recover from what he called a “terrible, terrible disaster.”
Ottawa is sending hundreds of air force personnel to aid the recovery and “there are thousands more on standby,” Trudeau told reporters in Washington ahead of a U.S.-Canada-Mexico summit on Thursday.
Some affected towns are in remote mountain areas with limited access and freezing temperatures.
In Tulameen, northeast of Vancouver, up to 400 people are trapped, many without power, said Erick Thompson, a spokesman for the area’s emergency operations.
“(We) did a helicopter flight recently, dropped off food,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
In Hope, 100 miles (160 km) east of Vancouver, food was starting to run low. Pastor Jeff Kuhn said a quarter of the town’s 6,000 residents were seeking shelter.
About 100 volunteers at the Dukh Nivaran Sahib Gurdwara Sikh temple in Surrey spent all night Tuesday preparing about 3,000 meals and then hired helicopters to deliver the food to Hope, said the temple’s president, Narinder Singh Walia.