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B.C. declares state of emergency amid mass flooding; thousands evacuated

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B.C. declares state of emergency amid mass flooding; thousands evacuated
A state of emergency has been declared for the Canadian province of British Columbia in response to mass flooding and mudslides. Photo courtesy of British Columbia Ministry of Transportation

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The Canadian provincial government of British Columbia declared a state of emergency on Wednesday as torrential rains over the last few days have trigged mudslides, killing one person though officials warn the death toll is expected to rise.

Premier John Horgan announced the state of emergency Wednesday afternoon in a press conference explaining that the once in a 500-year natural disaster has devastated entire communities and forced thousands to evacuate with many others left stranded by road closures and mudslides.

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"The last few days have been incredibly difficult for British Columbians as we've experienced yet another natural disaster," he said.

On Tuesday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed in a statement that authorities a day earlier recovered the body of woman from a mudslide that occurred near Lillooet, a Fraser River community Northeast of Vancouver.

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Horgan said the death was devastating news for the family and for all of British Columbia.

"Sadly we expect to confirm more fatalities in the coming days," he said.

The mudslides have forced multiple highways to close, limiting emergency access and impacting supply chains, Horgan said, calling on residents not to hoard items.

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The Ministry of Transportation throughout Wednesday and into the night has been posting pictures online showing the devastation its road infrastructure has incurred, including mountain highways destroyed and streets submerged in floodwaters.

The emergency declaration, Horgan explained, will assist with managing impacted supply chains as well as replenish them, aid security for inundated areas and restore drinking water, among offering the provincial government more resources and flexibility to respond to the disaster.

It will be in effect for 14 days but could be extended, according to a statement from the government.

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"Getting our rail and roadways back up and in operation is a top priority," Mike Farnworth, the minister of Public Safety and solicitor general, said, "and the declaration will enable us to put the resources in place to make that happen."

As of mid-day Wednesday, nearly 18,000 people were ordered to evacuate from dozens of communities with several more under evacuation alerts.

Horgan said the armed forces have been deployed to aid in the effort.

Prime Minister Justice Trudeau said he spoke with the premier to let him know the federal government stands ready to provide "any support" they may need.

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