British Columbia storm: Highway snaps in half, Vancouver cut off as province grapples with floods

British Columbia is grappling with the aftermath of intense rainfall and floods, which washed away parts of major highways and forced people to evacuate from affected locations in the southern part of the province.

Highway 1, 3, 7 and 5 in Coquihalla suffered extensive damage from river surges. Most of the highways remain closed, cutting off the Lower Mainland area completely.

The Coquihalla Highway, which appears to have snapped in two, is one of B.C.'s most important highways since it connects the city of Vancouver to the province Interior.

Reopening of the Coquihalla Highway could take months, Global News has reported.

“In some cases, it can be hours, or a day or two to remove debris,” Public Safety Minister and Deputy B.C. Premier Mike Farnworth said Tuesday morning.

“But in some cases, like the Coquihalla, it could be several weeks or months. We won’t know that until the experts do the work that needs to be done and they’re doing it right now.”

A part of the Trans Canada Highway or Highway 1, known as the Malahat, also remains closed due to severe impact. A section of the highway cut off and fell into the water near Tank Hill.

Highway 1 connects major Interior cities to one another and closures mean most of them have lost road access to neighbouring cities.

A section of the Trans Canada Highway
A section of the Trans Canada Highway

On top of this, all rail access to the Port of Vancouver, Canada's largest port has been cut off.

"All rail service coming to and from the Port of Vancouver is halted because of flooding in the British Columbia interior," port spokesperson Matti Polychronis said.

Vancouver's port moves C$550 million ($440 million) worth of cargo each day, so the economic impact of the rail halt could be substantial, Reuters reported.

Officials rescued 275 people who were stranded in between various mudslides by using helicopters since most of the roads were closed.

Abbotsford and Chilliwack, B.C. authorities have expanded evacuation orders and are asking residents to leave immediately.

"This is changing so quickly that you might think you're OK one minute and literally half an hour later you'll see the change in the water levels," said Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr.

But due to the highway closures and limited hotel availability, officials have asked evacuees to stay with family and friends, according to CBC News.

Officials are also rescuing those stranded in remote homes in the province using boats since there's no road access.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said conditions remain in flux throughout the province.

"I would like to thank everyone who is affected for your patience, strength and for doing everything you can to stay safe," he said.