‘Biblical proportions’: heavy rainfall floods Nova Scotia, forcing evacuations

Jul 23, 2023, 6:41 PM | Updated: 6:43 pm

A man wearing chest waders walks past cars abandoned in floodwaters in a mall parking lot in Halifa...

A man wearing chest waders walks past cars abandoned in floodwaters in a mall parking lot in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on July 22. Mandatory Credit: Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press/AP

(CNN) — Three months’ worth of rain over the course of one day has flooded the Canadian province of Nova Scotia since Friday night, inundating streets, forcing evacuations and leaving at least four people missing – including two children.

A provincewide state of emergency has been declared, including for the Halifax regional municipality as well as nearby East Hants, West Hants, Lunenburg and Queens.

“We have had biblical proportions of rain over the night and into the day,” Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said Saturday.

On Sunday, Canadian police said they were continuing to search for two children, a youth and a man who had gone missing after the vehicles they were traveling in were submerged in two separate incidents early Saturday.

“Last evening, the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team conducted an underwater search of a flooded field and located an unoccupied pick-up truck believed to have been the vehicle that the children were traveling in,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement. “Search efforts continue in the same area for the four people and the second vehicle.”

Premier Tim Houston said on Twitter Sunday: “Thank you to Nova Scotia’s first responders for their incredible work in response to the floods.”

Houston told a news conference Saturday that three people traveling with the missing children had managed to escape their vehicle and two people had been rescued from the other car.

“I cannot stop thinking about these families and these four individuals,” Houston told reporters. “I want them to know that everything that can be done is being done. I know the entire province joins me in praying for their safe return.”

An estimated 250 millimeters of rain battered the province in one day, Houston said.

“We got three months’ worth of rain in less than 24 hours,” he said. “It came fast and it came furious.”

On Sunday, Houston told reporters authorities were working to repair closed roads and compromised infrastructure systems.

“We have approximately 25 bridges impacted across the province, 19 have been damaged, investigations continue on that but six – six – of those bridges were just completely destroyed,” he said during a news conference Sunday. “It’s incredible to see the force of the water and the impact it’s had. We’re working as quickly as possible to get our roads open.”

A temporary bridge is also expected to be completed Sunday night so the nearly 400 people isolated at a motocross track in East Hans can return to their destinations, according to Nova Scotia’s Department of Public Works.

As hundreds make their returns home following evacuations, others are still displaced and are receiving assistance from the Red Cross, Nova Scotia officials said.

About 750 people were ordered to flee the Halifax area overnight Friday, while more than 400 homes were evacuated in Lunenburg, authorities said Saturday.

Water levels remain high in many impacted areas of the province, so residents are urged to shelter in place and only return home if they are advised that it is safe to do so.

The state of emergency declaration remains in effect until August 5 unless officials terminate or extend it, according to the Nova Scotia government.

“Once again, our community is facing the awful force and unpredictability, nature and a changing climate,” Mayor Savage said on Saturday.

“This has been an extraordinary event and I know that it follows on the heels of wildfires of not very long ago and even Hurricane Fiona of last fall,” the Halifax mayor added.

Some communities in the Halifax area are still recovering from a large wildlife that started in late May, which led to evacuation orders for about 16,400 residents and destroyed 151 homes, CNN Canadian partner CBC reported.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered support to Nova Scotia residents in a post on Twitter Saturday afternoon, saying that with air and marine assistance “we’re providing resources to help with evacuations – and we stand ready to provide any additional federal resources needed. Please stay safe, everyone.”

Trudeau also spoke with Houston Saturday and emphasized federal and local collaboration on search and rescue efforts, Trudeau’s office said in a news release.

“The Prime Minister reiterated the Government of Canada’s commitment to supporting Nova Scotians in the days and weeks ahead to respond to the flooding,” the release said. “He also acknowledged the strength of Nova Scotians, who are coming together in hard times and showing up for each other.”

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‘Biblical proportions’: heavy rainfall floods Nova Scotia, forcing evacuations