Canada's massive flood strands 18,000

·2-min read

Emergency crews are still trying to reach 18,000 people stranded after floods and mudslides destroyed roads, houses and bridges in British Columbia in what could be the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.

Receding floodwaters helped rescue efforts on Thursday but the downpour blocked off entire towns in the Pacific Coast province and cut access to the country's largest port in Vancouver, disrupting already strained global supply chains.

Premier John Horgan declared a state of emergency and said the death toll would rise from the one confirmed fatality. Police say four more people are missing.

Many of the affected towns are in mountainous areas to the east and northeast of Vancouver with limited access.

Provincial cabinet ministers told a briefing on Thursday that some major highways were slowly starting to reopen.

Some towns reported fuel shortages. Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth said the province was exploring whether to import fuel from the United States or neighboring Alberta.

In Ottawa, the federal minister for emergency preparedness, Bill Blair, said river flows were beginning to drop as the rain lightened.

"The situation remains critical, however but there is in fact an improvement," he told reporters.

Ottawa has promised to send hundreds of air force personnel to British Columbia, the first of whom have already arrived. Thousands more are on standby.

Shoppers emptied grocery shelves , although the shortages were as much down to panic buying as disrupted supply chains.

Provincial Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the food supply was secure.

"We're just rejigging routes to get it to folks, but we're definitely not going to run out of food," she told the briefing.

The flooding also hit the US state of Washington, as President Joe Biden noted before a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"We've been good friends for a while. ... We're both keeping our minds close to the families affected by the storms, flooding in the British Columbia area and the Pacific Northwest," he said in the Oval Office.

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