British Columbia officials say between 80 and 100 cars became trapped between two mudslides on a BC highway overnight as a storm dumped a month’s worth of rain in one weekend.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the drivers and their passengers are stuck on Highway 7 near Agassiz, BC. The mudslides are located between the Johnson Slough Rest Area and Ruby Creek Road in Kent, according to DriveBC.
UPDATE – #BCHwy7 Closed at Ruby Creek due to a mudslide. Assessment in progress. Expect major delays. #HopeBC #Agassiz #Lougheed #FraserValley https://t.co/SDJavmAAat
— DriveBC (@DriveBC) November 15, 2021
Search and Rescue teams are trying to make their way over, but heavy rain and high winds are making the journey difficult.
“They have been mobilized since very early this morning,” Farnworth said. “We’re trying to reach the people trapped between those slides as quickly and as safely as possible.”
Farnworth wouldn’t give details on rescuers’ plans to help the drivers, and as people’s phones die and cars run out of gas, it’s unclear how the trapped individuals will receive updates from the province.
Driver Ryan Berekoff, who was stuck overnight, told Daily Hive that four helicopters were circling the area just before noon on Monday.
Berekoff was staying in Sunshine Valley when the power went out, and he decided to head home to Tsawwassen. But on the way, he got into a traffic jam and realized he wasn’t getting through.
He tried to turn around and head the other way, and that’s when the Ruby Crook mudslide happened, trapping him. He said there are about 100 vehicles stuck on the highway with him.
“Overnight was very eerie and uneasy. It was pitch black,” he said.
He has mostly stayed in his car except to take his dog out, and he has been snacking on some leftover lasagna and queso he was bringing back home. Drinking water has been his main problem, though — he has resorted to filling his empty water bottle from rain runoff overnight.
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Still stuck between two slides on #BCHwy7 #bcstorm I hear helicopters now after countless hours pic.twitter.com/ulHWPLBrMs
— Ryan Berekoff (@rberekoff) November 15, 2021
Several other drivers tweeted that they’d been stuck overnight, including one woman who said she’d been stuck since approximately 8 pm on Sunday evening and that she slept in her car.
First overnight hwy sleepover 🚗 😴 stuck between two mudslides for almost 9 hours and counting…#BCHwy7 #Hope #Agassiz
— Elaine B. (@3laineee_) November 15, 2021
The Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) Task Force is responding to the situation, says City of Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry.
Different from SAR teams trained for backcountry rescues, this team includes 120 members with expertise in medicine, emergency response, fire suppression, rescue, and engineering.
“The task force rescues victims from major structural collapses and other hazards. It is one of four heavy urban search and rescue teams able to deploy anywhere in Canada,” HUSAR says on the City’s website.