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‘Very challenging times’: State of emergency declared in B.C.

With British Columbians reeling from yet another natural disaster, the Province of B.C. has declared a state of emergency.

Effective noon today (Wednesday), it preserves basic access to services and supplies, allowing agencies to use extraordinary measures to protect people and communities.

Under the declaration, provincial officials have various powers including restricting travel in and out of flood zones.

Premier John Horgan says multiple highways remain closed, and the damage is severe, with essential and emergency access likely limited in the days ahead.

“These are very challenging times,” Horgan says.

“I don’t need to say that I’ve been at this dais over the past two years, talking about the challenges that we’ve faced. Unprecedented challenges with public health, wildfires, heat domes, and now debilitating floods that we’ve never seen before.”

The state of emergency, initially in effect for 14 days, applies to the whole province. It may be extended or rescinded as necessary.

“Getting our rail and roadways back up and in operation is a top priority, and the declaration will enable us to put the resources in place to make that happen,” says Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

“This is a catastrophic event and we need to work to get through it, together. We’ve been doing that through the COVID pandemic, we’ve been doing that through other emergencies in this province, and we’re going to have to do it again.”

Meanwhile, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming says another focus is clearing, repairing and reopening roads to connect the Interior and the North to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, to get supply chains moving again.

“We are working closely with multiple partners to make this happen. It is a big job, but collectively we are up to the challenge and will get things opened up again just as soon as we possibly can,” Fleming adds.

This week, thousands of BCers had to evacuate their homes due to heavy rains, strong winds and flooding, and thousands were left stranded between road closures and mudslides. One person is confirmed dead and others are reported missing.

The feds have responded to and accepted B.C.’s requests for assistance, the Province adds. With this in mind, in the coming days, additional federal personnel and resources will be arriving to assist.

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