Four people including two children are missing after torrential rains in Nova Scotia, described as a “biblical emergency” by one local reporter, flooded homes, washed out highways, left 40,000 households without power, and briefly threatened a catastrophic dam breach over the weekend.
The rains were the the heaviest the province has seen in 50 years, the Globe and Mail reports.
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On Sunday, authorities were still searching for two children, one youth, and one man whose vehicles were submerged in floodwaters in the regional municipality of West Hants, CBC reports. All four were travelling with family members who were rescued. The pickup truck that was carrying the two children was found, unoccupied, in a flooded field.
“Much of the province has been dealing with severe flooding and impassable roads after torrential downpours swept in overnight Friday and into Saturday,” CBC writes. “A province-wide state of emergency was declared late Saturday, with West Hants, East Hants, the Halifax Regional Municipality, Lunenburg County, and Queens County considered among the hardest hit areas.”
An emergency alert went out to cell phones in affected areas Saturday at 3:41 AM local time. It included an evacuation order for anyone along the St. Croix River system near Windsor, about 60 kilometres northwest of downtown Halifax, CBC said.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve seen here,” Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said Saturday. “It’s quite a violent storm and the ground, of course, is very saturated now, so any rain we continue to get only adds to the problem we have.”
At a media briefing Saturday, Halifax Examiner publisher Tim Bousquet grilled Premier Tim Houston on why one of his key cabinet members, John Lohr, wasn’t on hand to provide an update. “I guess the minister responsible for emergency services isn’t available in a biblical emergency,” Bousquet said. Houston explained that Lohr was “out on the road surveying damage, talking with Nova Scotians,” on the premier’s instructions.
At a news conference Sunday, provincial officials said 500 to 600 people were still displaced, 25 bridges had been affected by the storms with six destroyed, and 50 roads had been washed out. At the height of the storm, local reports had waters cresting above car roofs along the Bedford Highway in Dartmouth, the nearby Sunnyside Mall was flooded, and washed out train tracks were preventing freight traffic between Halifax and Truro.
It was the latest severe hit for a province that has endured more than its share of storms and wildfires over the last year. Halifax Fire News carried minute-to-minute reports on the storm and its impacts, and The Weather Network had photos.
“Over the past year, Nova Scotians have again and again been called upon to pull together in the face of unprecedented climate impacts—from post-tropical storm Fiona, to raging wildfires and now floods,” the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre said on social media. “We will look out for one another, check in with our neighbours, support local farmers during an extremely difficult year, and offer gratitude to emergency crews working overtime to keep us safe.”
At the same time, “we must renew our calls on all levels of government to stop stalling and take the urgent, meaningful action required to address the climate emergency,” the Centre added. “We must demand that they do their part to lower emissions and support sustainable, resilient communities and systems. Because with every new disaster we face, it becomes increasingly clear that they are letting us down.”