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Volunteers work to secure flood-hit areas in B.C. amid threat of storms

Barnston Island is under an evacuation alert due to potential flooding.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

British Columbia’s flood-ravaged communities are working around the clock in anticipation of rainfall and further rising water levels that have already washed out streets and forced thousands from their homes across the southern Interior.

In hard-hit areas such as Grand Forks, volunteers were working tirelessly in sweltering heat to stockpile sandbags ahead of thundershowers on Thursday. In the Vancouver region, residents on Barnston Island on the Fraser River, near Surrey, were advised to relocate livestock before ferry service was suspended. The Township of Langley was under evacuation alert and farther east in the Fraser Valley, a small part of Chilliwack was under evacuation order.

Evacuation

order

Kelowna

B.C.

Okanagan

Lake

Van.

0

10

B.C.

KM

Christian Valley

Regional Disrict

of Kootenay

Boundary

Beaverdell

West

Kettle

River

Kettle River

Keremeos

Granby River

Osoyoos

Grand Forks

Midway

U.S.

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: RDKB EMERGENCY; TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

Evacuation

order

Kelowna

B.C.

Okanagan

Lake

Van.

0

10

B.C.

KM

Christian

Valley

Regional Disrict

of Kootenay

Boundary

Beaverdell

West

Kettle

River

Kettle River

Keremeos

Granby River

Osoyoos

Grand Forks

Midway

U.S.

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: RDKB EMERGENCY; TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

Evacuation order

Kelowna

Reception centre

R

B.C.

Sandbags

S

Detail

Okanagan Lake

Vancouver

0

10

BRITISH COLUMBIA

KM

Christian

Valley

Regional Disrict

of Kootenay

Boundary

S

Beaverdell

Okanagan Falls

West

Kettle

River

Kettle River

Keremeos

Granby River

Okanagan

River

Christina

Lake

S

Similkameen

River

Westbridge

Greenwood

S

Grand Forks

Osoyoos

S

Midway

S

S

R

R

U.S.

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: RDKB EMERGENCY;

TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

Jordan Turner, a spokesman for Emergency Management BC, said in a statement that the province has initiated a federal request for flooding assistance because it lacks the resources to manage the flooding response.

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B.C. Premier John Horgan toured potential flood areas near Chilliwack by helicopter on Wednesday and spoke with media alongside Andrew Wilkinson, the BC Liberal Leader and leader of the official opposition, and Sonia Fursteneau, deputy leader of the BC Green Party.

“We felt, as legislators from different political parties, that it was important for us to demonstrate a unity of purpose as British Columbians so they would understand clearly that we don’t see this as a partisan issue,” Mr. Horgan said.

“We stand together united to make sure we leave no stone unturned, no sandbag unfilled.”

B.C. Premier John Horgan looks out at the swollen Fraser River near Hope, B.C., during an aerial tour of potential flood areas on Wednesday.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Outside an arena in Grand Forks, the main hub for flood-response activities, volunteers have filled between 15,000 and 20,000 sandbags a day, loading them onto trucks destined for at-risk properties.

In nearly 30 C weather, a misting tent helped cool sweaty bodies and volunteers were on hand with sunscreen, pizza, sandwiches and water.

“There’s a certain level of intensity here,” said Gabe Warriner, a local pastor and school-bus driver. “People are trying to work as fast as possible and can forget to take care of themselves.”

With lessons learned from last year’s floods, some residents are building sandbag walls in pyramid structures rather than single rows – but this means needing three times as many sandbags, Mr. Warriner said.

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Chris Marsh, emergency operations centre director for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, said officials in the area are concerned about the impact of thunderstorms that could dump considerable water into the already-stressed area.

“We continue to expect high flows out of our rivers so this is the one-two punch. We’ve had a significant flooding event. We have had to keep the evacuation orders on for a significant amount of time as we are expecting continued high flows and increasing flows through the weekend,” Mr. Marsh said Wednesday.

He said it will take cooler temperatures or a reduced risk of rain to abate the situation.

A day earlier, the regional district said it planned to ask for the military to be dispatched to the area. The province’s emergency management agency, in turn, has formally asked the federal government for assistance, though the request didn’t explicitly request Canadian Forces personnel.

Roly Russell, regional director for Area D – rural Grand Forks outside the city limits, is exasperated by the long turnaround time for military assistance. He noted that there are military resources within 90 minutes of the area, citing the 44th Engineering Squadron of the 39th Combat Engineering Regiment.

“I have not too much patience for the notion that it takes a long time to get that into play,” Mr. Russell said. “If the powers that be are willing, we could make that happen soon.”

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Residents sit outside a store front as sandbags are piled high in anticipation of flood waters in Grand Forks, B.C., on Tuesday.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

Dan Derby, the regional fire chief, said it’s clear that the 44th Engineering Squadron has resources that would be of immediate use, including trucks that could navigate flooded areas as well as boats, engineering staff and resources to help bolster volunteers. “It would be a resource on the ground that would help us immediately.”

In light of an evacuation alert issued for Barnston Island on Wednesday, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation said ferry service between the island and Port Kells will operate “around the clock.”

The water level at the Fraser River’s Mission gauge reached 5.7 metres on Wednesday morning; the ferry will continue to operate “for as long as practical” when it reaches 6.5 metres but will be suspended should dock facilities become submerged, the ministry said.

Residents are advised to relocate large pets and livestock as soon as possible, as no large animals will be allowed on the ferry once an evacuation order is issued. Barnston Island is home to roughly 150 people.

Emergency Management BC’s statement said that requests for federal assistance are not specifically made for military assistance. “The federal government will fill the need with their available resources from their various program areas.”

Mr. Horgan said he has spoken to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has assured him that whatever federal resources the province needs to deal with the flooding will be provided.

The B.C. government also announced Wednesday that it would match donations to flood victims through the Canadian Red Cross up to $20-million.The campaign applies to individual donations from B.C. residents from now through July 31.

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