Public safety minister urges Old Fort residents to not defy evacuation orders

B.C.'s Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth toured a slow-moving landslide that has forced around 200 residents of Old Fort out of their homes.

'That slope is moving,' Mike Farnworth says of landslide in northern B.C.

A man walks along the road into Old Fort destroyed by a landslide. The entire community near Fort St. John in northeastern B.C. has been evacuated. (Bobbi Pardy)

B.C.'s Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth toured the site of a slow-moving landslide Wednesday that has forced around 200 residents of Old Fort, B.C., from their homes.

Residents were evacuated from the community just south of Fort St. John in northeastern B.C. on Sunday after the landslide cut off the only road to the subdivision a week earlier.

Farnworth said the site remains "very active," with the slide having advanced an additional 20 metres, and cracks on either side widening to the east and west.

"That slope is moving and it's not safe," he said. "The key issue right now is getting a concrete understanding of the mechanics that are taking place underground and on the surface."

Defying evacuation orders

In a public meeting on Monday, residents were told that they could be away from their homes for months — and possibly until next summer.

A number of residents have since defied evacuation orders to retrieve belongings.

An expert says the landslide in Old Fort is still moving at least four metres a day. (Bobbi Pardy)

Farnworth strongly urged residents to stop doing so.

"There may be those that think they know what's best," he said. "Let me be clear, the regional district does not put in place an evacuation order for the sake of putting in place an evacuation order."

Farnworth said that long-term plans are now being developed to house residents affected by the slide. Emergency planners are also looking into the feasibility of using barges to get in and out of town.

He said the damage caused by the slide is "pretty unbelievable."

"You see the trees that are bent and shattered like toothpicks and you see these cracks on the hillside. It looks like what you see in one of those earthquake movies."