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'A tremendous challenge': Crews working around the clock to restore supply links in BC

'A tremendous challenge'

UPDATE 12:15 p.m.

While hundreds of workers toil away around the clock on B.C.’s highway system, the provincial government is reiterating its request that people stay off critical routes unless absolutely necessary.

Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming said Monday there are 250 pieces of heavy equipment working on emergency repairs to roads and railways in a rush to restore supply chains throughout B.C.

“Every day brings a little bit closer to a return to normal, but we're in the midst of a tremendous challenge,” Fleming said.

He said CP Rail is “cautiously optimistic” they will be able to restart operations on Tuesday, which will lessen pressure on what is left of the highway system. Two-thirds of containers in B.C. are moved by rail.

Segments of Highway 1 in the lower Fraser Canyon and Fraser Valley between Hope and Chilliwack reopened over the weekend. Traffic on the Trans-Canada between Highway 11 and Yale Road is being limited to agricultural and other essential vehicles.

Highway 3 has been designated the commercial vehicle route between the Lower Mainland and Interior while Highway 99 is carrying other traffic. Both routes are operating smoothly, all things considered.

Work is underway on temporary repairs and construction access on the Coquihalla Highway while permanent rebuilds are planned at multiple sites.

“We don't yet have clear timelines there beyond many weeks for the temporary work, and many, many months for the permanent repairs,” Fleming added, adding more information on timelines for the reopen Highway 5 will be released in the “coming days.”

He said restrictions limiting usage of parts of Highway 3, 99, 7 and 1 to essential travel only will remain in place as long as they need to. There were no fines issued over the weekend to violators of the restrictions as B.C. residents overwhelmingly complied.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth says crews are working as around the clock as more rain is coming starting Wednesday, “and a series of further storms are expected in the coming weeks.”

“Over the last week, we've asked a great deal of British Columbians and time and again, the people of this province have responded,” Farnworth added. “There's a lot of hard work ahead. But we are making progress thanks to the big hearts of so many people.”

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said farmers in the Fraser Valley are exhausted and are still desperately trying to care for their livestock amid the flooding.

“Our food supply chain remains in good shape as retailers and distributors are working really closely to keep the product moving and supply communities across the province,” Popham said.

She said there is still too much water on the Sumas Prairie to start work on the disposal of agricultural waste and livestock carcasses impacted by the floods. The military is on the ground supporting farmers by doing things like moving chickens to safer barns.


ORIGINAL 6:30 a.m.

British Columbia officials are set to provide an update on flooding in the province today at 11:30 a.m., as a rain storm in the north is set to move south.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, along with the ministers of transportation and agriculture, are set to host a morning news conference.

It comes after a weekend that saw soldiers arrive to help farmers save livestock and lend a hand in sandbagging efforts.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for the North Coast with rain expected to move south later today.

Derek Lee, a meteorologist with the agency, says a brief respite from rain is expected Tuesday before another weather system moves in on Wednesday bringing yet more rain.

Federal employment minister Carla Qualtrough says residents displaced or left unemployed due to the flooding should apply for employment insurance immediately, even if they normally wouldn't qualify.



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