As It Happens·Q&A

B.C. woman describes sleepless night on the highway, trapped between landslides

Julia Murray and her friend were among the 275 people who spent Sunday evening in their vehicles on B.C.'s Highway 7 trapped between two mudslides.

About 275 people were stuck on Highway 7 overnight Sunday in rain-battered British Columbia

Julia Murray snaps a selfie on Highway 7 in B.C., where she and her friend were stuck in her car, trapped between 2 landslides. (Submitted by Julia Murray)

Storry Transcript

Julia Murray didn't get a lot of sleep on Sunday night. 

That's because she and her friend spent the evening in her car on Highway 7 near Agassiz, B.C., about 125 kilometres east of Vancouver, trapped between two mudslides brought on by heavy rain

She is one of an about 275 people stuck on the highway overnight Sunday and into Monday. Rescue efforts by helicopter were underway as of Monday afternoon. 

Murray spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off earlier on Monday, before the air rescue operations began. Here is part of their conversation.

Julia, I know you have spent the night where you are. And it's now light out. You can see what's around you. Can you describe it for us?

There [are] a lot of cars parked on Highway 7 here. I can see some waterfalls to our left, just some small ones. And then to our right, we can see the swamp and the river where a couple of cars actually got swept into. Luckily, the people were already rescued by search and rescue about last night at 1 a.m.

So, yeah, we're just stuck here on the highway and haven't really heard any news yet. But we can see the river and then there's a mountainside beside us. And then the swamp in this landslide is right behind us. 

We're facing Hope, [B.C.].... We're closest to the Agassiz slide.

A man takes his dog out for a walk on the rain-battered highway near Agassiz, B.C., where about 50 vehicles were trapped between 2 landslides. (Submitted by Julia Murray)

When you say that the people were rescued, what did you see of that? The ones whose cars got swept over — what happened with them, and what did you see and hear from them?

I saw about six search and rescue people who had to physically climb down with all of their spotlights, and they had a big spotlight on, shining over the swamp. And I could hear the people last night yelling for help. And then about an hour later, I think they had managed to get them all out. 

Are you worried at all [about] the road where you are sitting? Is it safe? 

I'm not entirely sure.... We lost sleep last night because, obviously, you never know. There could have been another slide. We had to kind of be half-awake. And they told us to just be alert.

When we talk about waterfalls, these are waterfalls that are not supposed to be there, right?

They're probably not supposed to be there. They're probably supposed to be streams.

Oh dear. And is it still raining?

It's raining probably just as hard as it was last night.

Fire crews responding to a mudslide on Highway 7 near Agassiz, B.C., gather at a command post set up at a nearby gas station on Sunday. (Shane Mackichan)

Can we just go back to last night? When did you realize that there was something bad happening?

I think we got stopped at 7:30 and then we waited about a half hour and the cars started going forward a little bit. And once we got to the bottom, a traffic control person basically said there was another slide [and] we should turn around and go back to Hope.

So we tried to turn around and go back to Hope, and then everyone was stopped as well because a second slide had hit at basically the same time.

There's about two kilometres of road between these two slides, right? So that's where you are now.

Yeah, about that.

And there's no going forward, no going back.

There's basically no way out for us. 

Essentially, we're surrounded by water and ... slides and a huge mountain. So at this point, I'm hoping they consider possibly airlifting us out of here. It's becoming a really long day, especially for people that don't have water or food.

Murray snapped this picture of landslide debris blocking Highway 7 near Agassiz. (Submitted by Julia Murray)

What do you have in the way of supplies?

We just have a little bit of food. We have some juice and we're just filling our water up on the roof right now [with rain] as are a lot of other people.

You say this has been a pretty awful 12 hours for you. What were the worst parts of it during the night for you?

Honestly, probably just when the rain was getting a lot harder and I was just hearing noises outside, especially when they were trying to rescue the people. And, you know, just kind of jolting awake, feeling like there was going to be a slide that was going to take us out, too.

It was not a nice feeling. I was pretty anxious all night long.

Have you been able to talk to others or see what the situation is for other people in other cars?

Mostly just people who are in front of us and behind us. We just kind of briefly are just like, "Have you heard any updates?" or "How are you doing?" Everyone seems to be doing OK. 

What seems to you to be the most precarious part of where you are right now?

Probably just how close we are to this slide and being able to see the cars that are in the swamp beside us still.

And possibly the waterfall that is to our left. You never know. It's a little bit of a ravine that we can see up the mountain here where the power lines come through, and then the waterfalls that are there could be potentially dangerous.

What are you hearing from rescue officials? What sense do you have of when you'll be rescued?

Nothing. Nothing. Nobody knows anything up here. It's kind of a mystery to us. And we're starting to get really antsy, which is why we're reaching out to everyone to find out information for us or if there's going to be somebody that comes and gets us out of here.

Are you thinking about how it's going to feel when you get out of this?

It's going to be feeling really nice. I just want to get home.

When you think about getting home, what image do you have?

I am probably going to have a nice warm shower or something, because it's pretty chilly out here, especially when we have to hop out of the car and use the washroom or something.

I hope that you get rescued soon. But you sound like you're keeping your spirits up.

Honestly, we don't know what's going to happen. So we're just hoping we hear some news soon and some positive feedback from authorities

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC British Columbia. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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