Federal government vows to help B.C. rebuild after catastrophic flooding
Ottawa has pledged to send hundreds of soldiers to help recovery efforts
The federal government says it is moving quickly to help British Columbia respond to its ongoing flooding disaster and has pledged to help the province rebuild its damaged infrastructure.
The promises come as B.C. begins the enormous task of cleaning up and assessing the damage after severe rainfall last weekend triggered catastrophic flooding and mudslides.
The flooding prompted evacuation orders in some Fraser Valley communities. Portions of highways connecting the Lower Mainland to the rest of the country have also been destroyed.
"We will be there with financial supports to help in the rebuilding of that critical infrastructure," Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair said today. "Right now our focus is on getting people to safety."
Ottawa has pledged to send hundreds of soldiers to conduct search-and-rescue missions and to help the province with the ongoing crisis. The first military contingent arrived earlier today and there are plans to have around 120 soldiers on the ground in Abbotsford by the end of the day.
"And if needed, we have thousands more members on standby ready to help the province and British Columbians," said Minister of National Defence Anita Anand.
Anand said the soldiers will be available to help bring people to safety, restore the province's supply chains and protect infrastructure from further damage, among other tasks. The military will offer that assistance for at least the next 30 days, she said.
WATCH | Minister of Emergency Preparedness on Ottawa's assistance plans
Blair noted the floodwaters are now receding, which could help the relief and recovery work. He said no significant rainfall is expected over the next week.
"As the situation continues to evolve, we have much to do and much work to address the future needs of British Columbia," Blair said.
"We will be there to provide support, relief and we will work collaboratively with all orders of government to ensure that they receive the support and essential services that they require."
Federal officials have not yet attached a dollar figure to any pledges to help B.C. recover.
At least one person was killed in a mudslide triggered by the heavy rainfall. Officials say they expect the death toll to rise in the coming days.
Plans underway to restore B.C.'s supply chains
While the rain has stopped and the floodwaters are receding, the province still faces the problem of getting essential goods to people in need.
Several major highways and railways have been destroyed or closed by the flooding. It's not yet clear how or when B.C.'s supply chains will be restored.
WATCH | Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra speaks to CBC's Power & Politics about supply chain disruptions
"We're hoping that some highways will be reopened soon, some rail will be reopened soon, in the coming days," said Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra.
Alghabra said the federal government can help get supply chains running again by prioritizing the movement of essential goods when routes reopen.
Ottawa is also in discussions with the United States to create an interim measure allowing truckers to cross the border and travel on U.S. roads before re-entering Canada, Alghabra said.
"There are various contingency plans," he added.