Evacuation Order lifted as recovery effort begins following debris flows near Birken

Sep 22, 2015
All Areas

Pemberton, BC – Heavy rains on September 19 and 20 caused a number of debris flow and flood impacts throughout Electoral Areas B, C and D of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD). No injuries were reported as a result of the events. However, significant property damage was sustained and several roads were impacted, cutting off access to several communities and stranding several backcountry users. On September 20, the SLRD declared a State of Local Emergency in Areas C and D in response to the events. All of the known stranded backcountry users were flown to safety on Monday. An Evacuation Order issued for six properties near Birken in Area C was lifted today. An Evacuation Order and Alert issued for several properties in the vicinity of Seton Portage in Area B remain in place as hazard assessments continue and work gets underway.

In Area C, two debris flows destroyed one home, severely damaged another, and caused minor damage to a third property. The SLRD is working with the impacted residents to connect them with recovery resources available through the Red Cross and Provincial agencies. As well, the SLRD has initiated discussions with the Province requesting Disaster Financial Assistance for those who lost their homes. Many community members have also stepped up to support the families hit hardest by the disaster. A Birken Slide Relief Fund has been established at Scotia Bank, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched, and the Pemberton Community Centre is accepting clothing donations. More information about these community-driven initiatives can be found on the SLRD’s website

“Given the scale of these events and how quickly they happened, we’re incredibly thankful that no lives were lost and nobody was hurt,” says Jack Crompton, SLRD Board Chair. “That said, many residents are still not able to return to their homes, and some have lost their homes entirely. Our hearts go out to all those who’ve been impacted; the Regional District will be working with impacted residents in the coming days to support recovery efforts.”

The debris flows also impacted Pemberton Portage Road as well as BC Hydro, telephone and rail infrastructure, cutting off power, communication and access to the communities of Devine, D’Arcy and N’Quatqua. BC Hydro crews were able to restore power to the communities late in the afternoon on Monday; telephone service was also restored on Monday afternoon. Through the concerted efforts of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) staff and their contractor, Mainroad, Portage Road was re-opened to emergency vehicles and residential traffic late Monday evening. MOTI hopes to have the road open to the public by Friday; check www.DriveBC.ca for updates.

“These recent events have reminded us of the destructive and unpredictable power of nature, but they’ve also shown us the incredible power of community,” says Russell Mack, Director of SLRD Area C and resident of the community of D’Arcy. “In the face of difficulty, residents rallied together while emergency responders from multiple agencies worked tirelessly to restore power, communication and access. It’s been a difficult few days, but I’m inspired by what we’ve accomplished together, and I know that the community will continue to support those affected as the work of rebuilding begins.” 

As these emergencies unfolded, the SLRD employed the use of its new emergency notification service, SLRD Alert, which is powered by the ePACT Emergency Network. The system was used to communicate emergency messages directly to subscribers in the Upper Squamish Valley, Mount Currie – D’Arcy Corridor, and Seton Portage / Tsal’alh. Anyone living in any of the 31 unincorporated communities in the SLRD’s four electoral areas can sign up for the free service; about 600 people have already subscribed. Learn more at www.slrd.bc.ca/SLRDAlert.

More detailed information about these events and the emergency reponse can be found here

Media Contact: 

Jeannette Nadon,
Communications & Grants Coordinator
Telephone: (604) 894-6371 ext. 239
Email: jnadon@slrd.bc.ca

Ryan Wainwright
Emergency Program Manager
Telephone: (604) 698-6442
Email: rwainwright@slrd.bc.ca

Inside the SLRD > News & Events > Evacuation Order lifted as recovery effort begins following debris flows near Birken