Military responds to BC emergency

Three Cormorant helicopters and crew from 442 Search and Rescue Squadron evacuated people from Highway 7 after heavy rain triggered mudslides. Photos by Cpl Parker Salustro, Canadian Armed Forces Photos

Three Cormorant helicopters and crew from 442 Search and Rescue Squadron evacuated people from Highway 7 after heavy rain triggered mudslides. Photos by Cpl Parker Salustro, Canadian Armed Forces Photos

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer
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Following the torrential downpour last week, hundreds of motorists were left stranded on a flooded stretch of Highway 7 near Agassiz, B.C.

The tiny mountain community is located approximately 24 kilometres northeast of Chilliwack, in the Eastern Fraser River Valley, and was the site of two landslides that had occurred on the night of Nov. 14.

Aviators from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron based out of CFB Comox were tasked by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre to rescue motorists as part of a landslide and flooding emergency response.

Three Cormorant helicopters evacuated 311 motorists, including children, 26 dogs, and one cat on Nov. 15. Some motorists were rescued directly from their cars after becoming trapped by landslide debris. The airlift was hampered by the difficult terrain and the slide debris on the narrow stretch of highway.

Landslides and flooding came in the wake of record rainfall that occurred across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island over two days. The fierce autumn storm stranded people in their homes and on roadways, created wide-spread power outages, saw evacuation orders and states of emergency issued for thousands, crippled transportation, and disrupted supply chains.

State of Emergency

A State of Emergency was declared by the B.C. Provincial Government on Nov. 17, followed by an official request for assistance to the federal government for the Canadian Armed Forces, which was approved.

The request prompted the sixth iteration this year of Operation Lentus, the Canadian Armed Forces response to natural disasters in Canada.

As of press time, soldiers from 3rd Canadian Division – Western Canada, overseen by CFB Edmonton command, sent out a team to set up an immediate response unit (IRU) on the mainland.

The Royal Canadian Air Force sent a Griffon from 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in CFB Edmonton and a Cyclone from 443 MH Squadron in Pat Bay.

A Hercules from 8 Wing Trenton transported the IRU from CFB Edmonton to Abbottsford.    

The team will assist with evacuations; support of critical provincial supply chains; conduct reconnaissance and investigation of flooding impacts in support of relief effort planning; and assist with flood mitigation efforts, including protection of critical infrastructure, access roads, and properties, as designated by local authorities.

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Filed Under: Top Stories

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