UK weather: Canadian province swamped by first major rains for 50 years

A quarter of the province’s residents were affected after devastating rainfall led to a day-long deluge

British Columbia saw the wake of massive rains that hit at around 3pm on Sunday for the first time in nearly 50 years, with nearly 3,000 homes inundated by the downpour – some with residents’ possessions floating away.

The heavy rain caused nearly 10,000 people to be evacuated, said the provincial government. “The fire department is on the ground performing numerous rescues throughout the city, and we know from the social media feeds of people across the city … that the damage is extensive in the Downtown Eastside in particular,” said Feroz Khan, director of public safety and emergency services for Vancouver.

Water levels begin to rise in the downtown on Saturday. Photograph: Amy Childs/Facebook

The one-day deluge followed a period of dry weather in the province of about 5.5 million people, and the worst in decades, according to the Canadian Press. Less than an inch of rain on Sunday was enough to cause significant river and stream flooding, and caused more than 70 landslides.

Authorities have yet to estimate the damage. Three people died, including one in floods that took place overnight in Penticton, 100 miles east of Vancouver.

Vancouver is famous for having earthquake faults, but there were few immediate warning signs on Sunday’s rain. Victor Lopez, a 19-year-old who lives in the neighbourhood of Strathcona, said there was no sign of the flood before 8am and “the water was two feet high”.

“[There was] no canoeing, no river banks crumbling,” he said. “Nobody prepared for it.”

People gather in the lower levels of buildings to escape flooded homes. Photograph: Tom Rankin/Getty Images

Tony Vivis said he got to his third-floor apartment early and got his dog, Chita, into the bathroom. Once the water hit the tub’s bottom level, the water rose so fast that he could barely get the dog out.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “Once I was trying to pull [the dog] out and it was soaking wet, and I wasn’t even sure how to wrangle her … her fur was soaked … I just had no idea.”

The high water advisory issued for the Rock Creek area, where Monday’s flooding is expected to be severe, was lifted on Monday afternoon.

The wet weather has brought a number of factors into play, including rising sea levels and melting snow, said Bryan Copeland, an environmental scientist at the University of British Columbia.

“I think it’s extreme, the impact the weather system will have,” he said. “We always are just warming up our system, and we have an incredibly high river level event, but it’s a combination of multiple factors.”

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