As catastrophic flooding continues to affect the supply chain in southern B.C., provincial officials have announced new limits on gasoline purchases for non-essential vehicles and travel restrictions along damaged highways.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced Friday that members of the general public in affected areas will be limited to 30 litres per visit to a gas station.
The emergency order covers drivers in the Lower Mainland-to-Hope region, the Sea-to-Sky region, Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island, and will be in effect until Dec. 1. Essential vehicles including emergency responders, public transit, commercial transport vehicles, infrastructure repair vehicles and health-care transportation will not be limited.
"It's 10 to 11 days that we have to pull together as a province. If we're greedy, we'll fail," Farnworth told reporters.
The heavy rainstorm that struck southern B.C. beginning last weekend forced the closure of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which supplies some of the province's fuel supply. Rail lines and the highway system were also seriously damaged.
Farnworth said the order includes requirements for gas retailers to make sure their supply lasts until Dec. 1 and that the province will be working with them to make sure that happens.
Gas stations and wholesale distributors will also be prohibited from price gouging, and customers who are abusive, threatening or belligerent with employees can be fined.
Farnworth declined to say how close the province is to running out of gas, but noted supplies are being brought in from Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California.
"If we follow the orders that are in place today, we will be fine," he said.
Non-essential travel limited
Farnworth also announced an order prohibiting non-essential travel on three stretches of highway severely affected by flooding and landslides, and said police checkpoints will be set up at critical areas.
The highways where non-essential travel has been restricted include:
Highway 99: from the junction of Highway 99 and Lillooet River Road to the B.C. Hydro Seton Lake Campsite access in Lillooet.
Highway 3: from the junction of Highway 5 and Highway 3 in Hope to the west entrance to Princeton from Highway 3.
Highway 7: from the junction of Highway 7 and Highway 9 in Agassiz to the junction of Highway 7 and Highway 1 in Hope.
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming announced the reopening of Highway 3 during the same news conference. Assessments are still underway for the Coquihalla Highway, which was seriously damaged or washed away at several locations between Hope and Merritt.
More than 14,000 residents of B.C. remain on evacuation order following the flooding and landslides of the last week, according to the province.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said 20,000 hectares of farmland was affected, and 959 farms are currently on evacuation order. Thousands of animals have died in the floods; she said 35 veterinarians are on standby to help those that can be saved.
She said there have been tensions between police trying to protect people from dangerous conditions and farmers trying to reach their barns, and called on everyone to respect the evacuation orders that are in place.