VICTORIA — The death toll from the devastating mudslides in British Columbia climbed to four on Saturday after police recovered three more bodies from one particularly hard-hit area in the southern part of the province.
The RCMP announced the recoveries in a morning statement, though noted the bodies of the three men were found earlier in the week.
The Mounties said the men’s bodies were located in an area east of Agassiz along Highway 7 and a section of Highway 99, known as the Duffy Lake Road.
The discovery comes days after a woman’s body was recovered near the same area on Monday.
The search for a fifth person missing after the mudslides has been suspended, though that person is not currently counted among the dead.
“All current search efforts have been exhausted and discussions are underway as to how and when, best to proceed,” Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said in a statement.
The B.C. Coroners Service issued a statement saying it would investigate the deaths and make recommendations, where possible, to prevent similar situations in the future.
“This has been an incredibly difficult year for all of us in B.C., and my heart goes out to the many families and communities who have suffered tragic losses,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said.
The rising death toll comes as the region continues to work to stem the damage from flooding and mudslides across a large swath of the province.
B.C.’s public safety minister announced restrictions on gasoline on Friday, limiting residents who are not essential workers to 30 litres of fuel per gas station visit.
Mike Farnworth said the rationing applies to B.C.’s Lower Mainland, the Sea-to-Sky region, Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. It comes after supply lines, including major highways and rail tracks, were washed out or flooded by record rainfall that started last weekend.
He told a Saturday press conference that gas stations were working to implement a system to shut off fuel pumps once the 30 litre limit has been reached.
“People understand we are in a very challenging situation,” he said. “Our supply routes have been damaged, thousands of people have been displaced, huge impacts in our agricultural sector. We have to maintain our supply routes, we have to be able to get goods to where they’re needed.”
Farnworth said the federal government is also working on a system to rank “atmospheric rivers,” the weather phenomenon that led to the deadly flooding.
The federal government announced earlier Saturday that it was teaming up with provincial officials to form a working group to address supply chain concerns.
B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the province was able to airdrop four tons of feed to a hog farm, feeding four- to five-thousand animals.
She said the province has enough feed to sustain livestock for five to six days.
Highway 99 has been reopened to essential travel, with checkpoints planned to ensure travel restrictions are being followed.
A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster was expected to arrive at the airport in Abbotsford, B.C., on Saturday afternoon, delivering three CH-146 Griffon helicopters from 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron to assist with flood rescue efforts.
— By Nick Wells in Vancouver.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2021.
The Canadian Press