Evacuation of drivers trapped between mudslides underway

Nov 16 2021, 12:01 am

Rescuers touched down Monday afternoon on a stretch of BC highway where approximately 100 drivers trapped between two mudslides had spent the night.

The yellow Cormorant helicopter was a welcome sight for people like Ryan Berekoff, who had spent more than 16 hours stuck with few supplies.

“Overnight was very eerie and uneasy. It was pitch black,” he said, adding he resorted to filling his water bottle with rainwater runoff.

By Monday at 2 pm, he had made it out safely aboard a helicopter.

Rescuers took the evacuees to the nearby Agassiz Agricultural Centre, where they’ll be offered shelter and rides home, Berekoff said.

He left his name and number to retrieve his car later, but he doesn’t know when that will be.

Over the course of the overnight stay, the people stuck on Highway 7 between the Ruby Creek and Johnson Sough Rest Area landslides banded together through a Facebook group to take care of each other.

Online, they asked each other for diapers, offered barbecue chicken, and collected rainwater for others with toboggans.

Many drivers are still stuck on the road, waiting to be airlifted out. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said work is underway, despite poor conditions.

“They’re working in challenging weather, but working as quickly and safely as possible,” he said during an afternoon news conference.

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.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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