Search Underway in British Columbia After Motorists Trapped By Mudslides on Highway

Hundreds of people trapped in their vehicles overnight by mudslides on a highway in British Columbia were flown to safety by helicopters Monday, the Associated Press reported.

The body of a woman was also recovered as officials continue search for other possible victims Tuesday.

"Our team did recover one person," said David MacKenzie, the Pemberton District Search and Rescue manager.

Seven vehicles were found at a slide site on Highway 99 near the town of Lillooet and police were trying to determine if there were any other bodies, the AP reported.

Authorities said they had not yet confirmed how many people may be unaccounted for, but there were reports of at least two missing.

A yellow Cormorant chopper dropped those rescued in the town of Agassiz. Authorities were still determining if anyone was swept up in the debris set off by torrential rain.

"Trapped between two slides are approximately 275 additional people, including 50 children, who were advised to shelter in place overnight as debris was unstable and unsafe to cross," the City of Vancouver and Canada Task Force 1 initially said in a joint release.

Those vehicles and people have been cleared and rescuers are combing through the debris field left by the slides.

Jashanpreet Singh and his wife, Harleen Kaur, were caught between the two slides Sunday and said they saw a vehicle that had been partially crushed.

A 9-year-old boy was injured and had blood coming out of his nose and ears, Kaur said. Firefighters who were first to the scene Sunday were able to take the boy to care, she said.

Twelve people had been rescued from Highway 7 by the local fire department Sunday evening before the Vancouver Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team was called in Monday.

Multiple highways in British Columbia were closed due to the downpour.

Flood warnings and watches were issued on rivers and streams for areas from Merritt south to the border with the United States, the lower Fraser region and sections of southern Vancouver Island.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

British Columbia Flood, Mudslide, Flood Waters
A vehicle is submerged in floodwaters along a road in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Monday, November 15, 2021. Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press/AP Photo

The town of Merrit issued an evacuation order Monday, warning its 7,000 residents not to use water from faucets or flush the toilets due to the overflow at the city's wastewater treatment plant, which the evacuation order says presents "risk of mass sewage back-up and personal health risk."

Melanie Forsythe said her drive home from Vancouver to Hope, British Columbia, had her making at least five detours as rain washed out a bridge, closed roads and trapped her overnight between two mudslides before a helicopter landed on the highway and carried her to Agassiz.

Forsythe, who was with her boyfriend, Shawn Ramsay, and a friend, made it to the town about 18 hours after they were forced to stop on Highway 7 with nearly 300 other travelers.

"All three of us were kind of hyping each other up, saying it's going to be good, we're going to get out of here. But then we all had moments like, 'Is this it? Is this the last time we're going to see our kids?' We were talking to our parents and our families, but it was just a scary situation," she said.

Forsythe said everyone in her vehicle joined about two dozen people on the flight to Agassiz, where nearly 80 others from the highway had already arrived.

Forsythe said their vehicles were expected to be towed. Her group was about a nine-hour drive from home and couldn't find a hotel room to spend the night.

Canada Mudslide, Search and Rescue, British Columbia
Search and rescue personnel help flood evacuees disembark from a helicopter in Agassiz, British Columbia, Monday, November 15, 2021. Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press/AP Photo