‘It breaks my heart to see what’s going on’: Thousands evacuated as heavy rain hits parts of US and Canada

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One person is dead, several people are missing and thousands have been evacuated following severe flooding in the northwest of the US and parts of Canada.

A storm has brought days of rain to western Washington and British Colombia causing flood damage described by officials as “severe”.

The storms, which started on Sunday, wrecked roads, forced an oil pipeline to close, shut Canada‘s two biggest railways and limited land access to Vancouver – the city with the country’s largest port.

Officials in the small city of Sumas, Washington, said on Facebook on Tuesday that hundreds of people had been evacuated and an estimated 75% of homes had water damage.

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Cattle are herded through Canada flood

A man uses a jet ski to help a cow swim across a flooded field to rescue after rainstorms caused flooding and landslides in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Jesse Winter
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Cows are left stranded before their rescue in Abbotsford, British Columbia

Southwest of the city, a 59-year-old man – identified by police on Tuesday as Jose Garcia – remained missing after his truck was swept into a flooded field.

Across the border, the body of a woman was recovered from a landslide near Lillooet, northeast of Vancouver, that was triggered by record rainfall.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police said at least two other people were reported missing.

More on Canada

A satelite image shows flooding in Fraser Valley, Canada November 16, 2021. Courtesy of European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-1 imagery / Processed by DG DEFIS / via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. MANDATORY CREDIT EUROPEAN UNION COPERNICUS SENTINEL-1 IMAGERY / PROCESSED BY DG DEFIS
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A satellite image shows flooding in Fraser Valley, Canada on Monday

The Sumas River overflowed, overwhelming rescuers in Abbotsford, British Columbia, on Tuesday, where 1,100 homes were evacuated.

Community members struggled to rescue stranded cattle from a farm and used Jet Skis to help pull the animals to safety.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said that impassable roads were creating havoc as authorities tried to get people to evacuation sites.

Picture date 15 November 2021
Crew members from Royal Canadian Air Force 442 Squadron lead some of over 300 motorists stranded by mudslides towards a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter for their evacuation, in Agassiz, British Columbia, Canada November 15, 2021. Picture taken November 15, 2021. RCAF/Handout via REUTERS MANDATORY CREDIT. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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Crew members from Royal Canadian Air Force 442 Squadron rescued some of more than 300 motorists stranded by mudslides on Sunday

“It breaks my heart to see what’s going on in our city,” he said.

The evacuees from Abbotsford and Sumas were among thousands who were forced from their homes.

Officials in the northern Washington city of Ferndale urged people in homes and businesses to evacuate in an area near the rising Nooksack River yesterday.

A truck is partially submerged on a flooded stretch of the Trans-Canada highway after rainstorms lashed the western Canadian province of British Columbia, triggering landslides and floods and shutting highways, in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier
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A truck is partially submerged on a flooded stretch of the Trans-Canada highway

A half-dozen bystanders near the town’s main street rescued a man who had mistakenly drove into floodwaters by pushing his floating car to higher ground.

Further people were airlifted by the US Coast Guard near the town of Forks, Washington.

The floodwater has caused havoc for roads and railway.

Rail services operated by Canadian Pacific Rail and the Canadian National Railway were both out of service at the towns of Hope and Chilliwack in the lower mainland Fraser Valley region, to the east of Vancouver, on Monday.

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Drone footage shows extent of US floods

Crews partially reopened the west coast’s main north-south road, Interstate 5, near Bellingham, Washington, on Monday following its complete closure because of mudslide debris.

Additionally, six railroad cars derailed in Sumas, cancelling services in that location until the water recedes.

At the height of the storm on Monday, more than 158,000 customers in western Washington had no electricity as wind speeds reached 60mph.

More than 31,000 people across the state remained without power on Tuesday.

U.S. Coast Guard air crew from Sector Columbia River rescue people from floodwaters near Forks, Washington, U.S., November 15, 2021, in this still image obtained from video. Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest / Twitter via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. MANDATORY CREDIT U.S. COAST GUARD PACIFIC NORTHWEST VIA TWITTER.
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US Coast Guard air crew rescue people from floodwaters near Forks, Washington

The rains were caused by an atmospheric river – a huge plume of moisture extending over the Pacific and into Washington and Oregon.

About 14cm (5.57in) of rain fell at Bellingham International Airport, Washington, from Saturday through to Monday. The normal monthly rain total is 13cm (5.2in) for November, according to National Weather Service data.

Some areas of Canada received 20cm (8in) of rain on Sunday, the amount that usually falls in a month.

It is the second major widespread flood event in the northwest of Washington state in less than two years, and climate change is fuelling more powerful and frequent severe weather, Whatcom County officials told the Bellingham Herald.

The National Weather Service had issued flood warnings for several rivers around western Washington.

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