Crews look for B.C. landslide victims
JOHNSON’S LANDING, B.C. — Search and rescue teams were hoping to find four people believed buried in a massive landslide in southeastern British Columbia after initial efforts on Saturday were hampered by relentless rain overnight.
Bill MacPherson of the Central Kootenay Regional District said geotechnicians determined the area in Johnsons Landing is safe enough for about 40 crew members equipped with heavy equipment to wade through several metres of rock, mud and trees.
At least three homes were engulfed by Thursday’s landslide. A father, his two grown daughters, and a female tourist from Germany have been listed as missing.
The search was delayed Friday until engineers were sure the pile of debris was stable enough for crews to go back in.
Searchers were carrying avalanche beacons for their own safety.
Around midnight Friday, Forests Minister Steve Thomson issued a statement saying a ministry employee had received an email about signs of trouble in the tiny community before the slide hit.
Forests Ministry spokesman Dave Crebo said a resident who became alarmed after noticing debris in the local creek emailed neighbours at 4:56 a.m. Thursday and that one person in the group forwarded the message to a research hydrologist at the ministry at 8:47 a.m.
However, Crebo said the employee was working in the field and didn’t open the email until about 11:30 a.m., about a half hour after the slide had already occurred, engulfing at least three homes.
In the email, the resident said she noticed “surges of chocolate-coloured water that came down Gar Creek,” each bringing down a significant number of logs and debris and causing a jam.
“As soon as the log jam formed, gravel began to be deposited behind it,” she said. “The entire level of the creekbed has now been raised at least (1.8 metres) in that area.”
“The entire creekbed has been made raw and is constantly being scoured and reshaped. It was truly amazing to watch the speed with which radical shape-shifting was occurring.”
The woman said she later noticed that the entire creek was flowing over and down her driveway for about 23 metres.
“It is impossible to get through,” she said in the email, which was obtained from the Forests Ministry with all names removed.
In the email, the woman went on to say that she told a friend who was once involved in search and rescue about her concerns.