Canadian Armed Forces deploying 300 personnel to B.C. to help with flood evacuations

The federal government has confirmed that an initial group of 300 Canadian Armed Forces troops are being deployed to B.C. to assist with evacuation efforts as extreme flooding causes havoc in the southern region of the province.

Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair said the group will help alleviate supply chain hurdles, extract residents from flood and landslide sites, sandbag around water pump stations, and more.

“I spoke with the chief of the defence staff today, and they’ll be bringing their logistics support and bringing all the resources that are necessary to help B.C. through this very difficult time,” said Blair on CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Wednesday.

“Planes and helicopters will be brought into the area.”

Blair added that as many as 4,000 personnel are ready to be mobilized to help.

The move is in response to a request made by B.C. for federal support, confirmed in a statement from Blair posted on Twitter earlier in the day.

“I spoke to Minister [Mike Farnworth] to let him know that we stand with British Columbians during this extremely difficult time, and are working hard to provide the support they need as quickly as possible,” he said.

The devastating weather conditions have prompted a series of evacuation orders.

Officials in the city of Abbotsford are urging Sumas Prairie residents who have not already evacuated to do so “immediately,” as devastating flood waters threaten the Barrowtown Pump Station.

There remains an evacuation order in place for the city of Merritt.

B.C. RCMP officials on Tuesday confirmed one casualty – the body of a woman was recovered from the scene of a mudslide along Highway 99 between Pemberton and Lilooet. Investigators said two people have also been reported missing.

Defence Minister Anita Anand also weighed in Wednesday, reinstating the federal government’s support for the region.

“British Columbia: When Canadians need help, our Canadian Forces will be there,” she tweeted.

Heading into the Conservative caucus meeting today, B.C.-based Conservative MP Brad Vis thanked Blair for meeting with him earlier in the morning to discuss the situation and the deployment of CAF personnel.

“Our country is facing an unprecedented situation in the province of B.C. All hands need to be on deck to support the rebuild in British Columbia to keep people safe. I’m thankful that the military has been called in and the appropriate steps are being taken,” he said.

“This is not a partisan thing. This is a Team Canada thing.”

Fellow Conservative Ed Fast, the MP for Abbotsford, spoke to infrastructure needs going forward.

“These are long term fixes that won’t be resolved overnight… This is a huge multibillion dollar challenge that is facing our country facing our province,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while speaking in Washington at the start of the Three Amigos summit Wednesday, took a moment to acknowledge the emergency and noted that Ottawa is prepared to help pick up the pieces in the aftermath.

“I spoke with the premiers and a number of mayors last night to talk about how people are doing in this terrifically bad situation,” he said.

“We’ll be there for the cleanup and the rebuilding after the impacts of these extreme weather events.”

According to the prime minister’s office, Trudeau spoke with Blair before meeting with Congress later in the day and asked him to convene a meeting of the ministerial Incident Response Group to respond to the crisis.

Blair said he’s tasked his cabinet colleagues with bringing ideas to the table on how best to preserve what remains while tackling immediate needs.

He said the first order of business is to open up roadways to get emergency services delivered to those stranded.

“There’s really essential supply lines that need to be maintained, we understand the criticality of moving on that as quickly as possible. That’s being evaluated,” he said, adding that he’s working with his provincial counterparts on the matter.


With files from CTV News’ Hannah Jackson

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