B.C. warns public not to enter debris as evacuation orders lifted

Two housing complexes to be evacuated on Vancouver Island as evacuation alerts are lifted for nearby communities

The B.C. government has issued warnings to safe for workers to enter the rubble of two housing complexes demolished in a flooding disaster last week in Vancouver Island.

B.C. provincial forester Peter Loewen said that clean-up workers, including dump trucks and other heavy equipment, are only permitted in until Sunday.

“At this point, we are just sending the message out to the public that there is still considerable debris and risk for workers,” he said.

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Fifty people were briefly evacuated from 65 homes, schools and other facilities around the communities of Port Hardy and North Cowichan on Thursday as water levels rose dangerously. Authorities then ordered the evacuation of dozens of additional properties on Saturday, though later, on Sunday, lifted the alert.

Loewen said crews are still assessing the damage. A structural review team has been assessing the seven condemned structures along Highway 9 to determine if they are structurally safe, but workers have been able to get to some people’s homes before the homes were deemed unsafe.

Severe flooding damaged riverbanks across the B.C. Coast from Vancouver to the inland Prairies. The rising waters flooded waterways that are normally frozen in the winter, causing big problems for people and roads, not to mention the wildlife.

Several sections of the TransCanada Highway between Vancouver and Alberta remained closed on Sunday, with high-water reports in the areas described as hazardous. Officials are also keeping a close eye on the Peace river as water levels rise, and have asked concerned drivers to be on the lookout for fish out in distress.

Now, the number of worried people seeking their own evacuation orders has dropped to 15 from as many as 190 in North Cowichan, a town between Port Hardy and Campbell River that was hit the hardest by flooding. However, the houses where people were stranded all weekend were closed for safety reasons.

Many of the homes were quickly reoccupied, though some residents came to the town to look for rental properties, and contractors were required to show their work did not damage the houses after confirming they were home to members of the public.

“We’re still losing a lot of people’s homes and some have not been confirmed safe,” North Cowichan mayor Jacqualine Briggs said.

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