B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth imposed an order limiting gas purchases and travel along damaged highways on Friday.
More than 100 Canadian Armed Forces personnel have landed in Abbotsford, B.C., east of Vancouver, to help with emergency operations in the flood-ravaged Fraser Valley area.
A levee that was planned to be constructed will no longer go ahead, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun has confirmed. Military personnel will now focus on repairing a dike ahead of the next expected rainfall.
Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said the province is receiving aid from other jurisdictions to help farmers and ranchers in the Fraser Valley.
Highway 7 from Vancouver to Hope, B.C., was opened to essential travel, with 1,000 people stranded in Hope making their way home on Thursday.
For a list of up-to-date flood warnings, visit the River Forecast Centre.
As British Columbia begins to recover from the catastrophic flooding and mudslides that destroyed critical infrastructure, highways and farmland this week, supply chain issues have led provincial officials to impose limits on gas purchases and non-essential travel.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced the measures under the province’s state of emergency at a news conference on Friday. The order means members of the public in flood-ravaged areas will be limited to 30 litres of fuel per visit to the gas station.
The emergency order covers drivers in the Lower Mainland-to-Hope region, the Sea-to-Sky region, the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island. It will be in effect until Dec. 1.
Essential vehicles, including commercial trucks, infrastructure repair vehicles and health-care transportation, will be exempt from the order.
Farnworth said the order includes requirements for gas retailers to make sure their supply lasts until Dec. 1, and that the province will be working with them to make sure that happens. Gas stations and wholesale distributors will also be prohibited from price gouging, and customers who are abusive, threatening or belligerent with employees can be fined.
Travel restricted on damaged highways
As part of the order, non-essential traffic was also restricted on the province’s highway network, which continues to constrain travel and supply flow to and from Metro Vancouver.
The highways where non-essential travel has been restricted include:
- Highway 99: From the junction of Highway 99 and Lillooet River Road to the B.C. Hydro Seton Lake campsite access in Lillooet.
- Highway 3: From the junction of Highway 5 and Highway 3 in Hope to the west entrance to Princeton from Highway 3.
- Highway 7: From the junction of Highway 7 and Highway 9 in Agassiz to the junction of Highway 7 and Highway 1 in Hope.
More than 1,000 people who were stranded in the community of Hope, east of Vancouver, have been reunited with their families after an overnight train on Wednesday night and the reopening of Highway 7 to essential traffic.
Part of Highway 1 on Vancouver Island, known as the Malahat, was also reopened ahead of time. Highway 3 east of Hope was also reopened as of Friday afternoon.
B.C. Transportation Minister Rob Fleming also said limited travel might soon be possible on Highway 99, where one person lost their life in a mudslide. RCMP said four other people were reported missing along the highway.
Soldiers helping to rebuild dikes in Fraser Valley
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to help British Columbians recover from the flood, including with military assistance. More than 14,000 residents were still out of their homes as of Friday afternoon.
Trudeau said 120 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been dispatched to Abbotsford, B.C., one of the worst-hit areas, and another 350 members are standing by in Edmonton. Soldiers have rescued about 300 people, Trudeau told a news conference after the North American Leaders’ Summit in Washington
On Friday, military members were set to help construct a 2.5-kilometre flood levee in Abbotsford.
But at an afternoon news conference, Braun said that option was no longer being considered. The levee was to be built to stop water from spilling across the Trans Canada Highway, but water levels equalized on both sides.
WATCH | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledges support for B.C.:
Military personnel will now focus on repairing a damaged dike ahead of the next anticipated rainfall on Monday. Braun said he anticipates the whole dike may need to be rebuilt to a higher standard. He said while he had hoped water levels would recede by two feet, they have so far only receded by about six inches.
“There’s predicted 80 to 100 millimetres of rain coming next week, beginning Tuesday,” he said Thursday. “That’s what I’m concerned about if we don’t fix those breaches.”
Braun said the price tag for fixing the damaged infrastructure in the community of 120,000 could reach $1 billion.
Ranchers and farmers in B.C.’s Fraser Valley have been particularly hard hit by floods, with the region containing half of the province’s dairy farms. Many of those farms are in Abbotsford, with hundreds of farms flooded in the low-lying Sumas Prairie region east of the city.
Friday school closures in the Fraser Valley include all schools in the Fraser Cascade School District and Chilliwack School District, as well as Barrowtown, Matsqui and Upper Sumas elementary schools in Abbotsford.
The floods were triggered by historic rainfall on the weekend, as more than 20 daily rainfall records were shattered across the province.
Other jurisdictions to help B.C.’s animals
Popham said other provinces and Washington state have also offered to send resources to help the province’s farm animals. “Some feed at the Port of Vancouver that was destined to go to China will be re-routed to the Valley,” she said.
Many animals were trapped in barns without clean food or water, and owners were ordered to evacuate without their animals in tow. A total of 959 farms are on evacuation order throughout the province.
Popham had said earlier in the week that thousands of animals had perished in the floods. On Thursday, she said the province was using helicopters to drop water and aid isolated farmers; 35 veterinarians are also on standby to help.
There has been tension between police trying to protect people from dangerous conditions and farmers trying to reach their barns, Popham said, as she called on everyone to respect the evacuation orders that are in place.
- Farnworth said the province would start using the national Alert Ready system “next spring” or “next summer” after criticism from residents and numerous natural disasters this year.
- A resident of the small community of Yarrow, B.C., has recounted how he and his puppy made a terrifying escape from rapidly approaching floodwaters.
- The province has announced financial support for those affected by the floods. The deadline to apply is Feb. 12, 2022.
Anyone placed under evacuation order should leave the area immediately.
To find an evacuation centre close to you, visit the Emergency Management B.C. website.
Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.
Road conditions can be checked at DriveBC.
Courts block two Biden administration COVID vaccine mandates
The Biden administration was blocked on Tuesday from enforcing two mandates requiring millions of American workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a key part of its strategy for controlling the spread of the coronavirus.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana, temporarily blocked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers until the court can resolve legal challenges.
Doughty’s ruling applied nationwide, except in 10 states where the CMS was already prevented from enforcing the rule due to a prior order from a federal judge in St. Louis.
Doughty said the CMS lacked the authority to issue a vaccine mandate that would require more than 2 million unvaccinated healthcare workers to get a coronavirus shot.
“There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million healthcare workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” wrote Doughty.
Separately, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove in Frankfort, Kentucky, blocked the administration from enforcing a regulation that new government contracts must include clauses requiring that contractors’ employees get vaccinated.
The contractor ruling applied in the three states that had filed the lawsuit, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, one of at least 13 legal challenges nationwide against the regulation. It appears to be the first ruling against the contractor vaccine mandate.
The White House declined to comment.
The legal setbacks for President Joe Biden’s vaccine policy come as concerns that the Omicron coronavirus variant could trigger a new wave of infections and curtail travel and economic activity across the globe.
Biden unveiled regulations in September to increase the U.S. adult vaccination rate beyond the current 71% as a way of fighting the pandemic, which has killed more than 750,000 Americans and weighed on the economy.
Republican state attorneys general, conservative groups and trade organizations have sued to stop the regulations.
Tuesday’s rulings add to a string of court losses for the Biden administration over its COVID-19 policies.
The most sweeping regulation, a workplace vaccine-or-testing mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court in early November.
In August, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the administration’s pandemic-related federal moratorium on residential evictions.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)
Putin hits back as NATO warns Moscow against attacking Ukraine
Russia would pay a high price for any new military aggression against Ukraine, NATO and the United States warned on Tuesday as the Western military alliance met to discuss Moscow’s possible motives for massing troops near the Ukrainian border.
President Vladimir Putin countered that Russia would be forced to act if U.S.-led NATO placed missiles in Ukraine that could strike Moscow within minutes.
Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that now aspires to join the European Union and NATO, has become the main flashpoint between Russia and the West as relations have soured to their worst level in the three decades since the Cold War ended.
“There will be a high price to pay for Russia if they once again use force against the independence of the nation Ukraine,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Stoltenberg, saying: “Any escalatory actions by Russia would be a great concern to the United States…, and any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences.”
Tensions have been rising for weeks, with Russia, Ukraine and NATO all staging military exercises amid mutual recriminations over which side is the aggressor.
Putin went further than previously in spelling out Russia’s “red lines” on Ukraine, saying it would have to respond if NATO deployed advanced missile systems on its neighbour’s soil.
“If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be 7-10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed. Just imagine,” the Kremlin leader said.
“What are we to do in such a scenario? We will have to then create something similar in relation to those who threaten us in that way. And we can do that now,” he said, pointing to Russia’s recent testing of a hypersonic weapon he said could fly at nine times the speed of sound.
EU and other Western leaders are involved in a geopolitical tug-of-war with Russia for influence in Ukraine and two other ex-Soviet republics, Moldova and Georgia, through trade, cooperation and protection arrangements.
NATO foreign ministers began two days of talks in the Latvian capital Riga to debate what they say is the growing Russian threat, with Blinken due to brief his 29 alliance counterparts on Washington’s intelligence assessment.
Blinken, speaking at a news conference with his Latvian counterpart, said he will have more to say on Wednesday on how to respond to Russia after holding talks with NATO allies.
“We will be consulting closely with…allies and partners in the days ahead…about whether there are other steps that we should take as an alliance to strengthen our defences, strengthen our resilience, strengthen our capacity,” he said.
Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmygal accused Russia https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/exclusive-ukraine-pm-says-russia-absolutely-behind-coup-attempt-2021-11-30 of trying to topple the elected government in Kyiv, which the Kremlin denies, after Ukraine’s president last week unveiled what he said was a coup attempt.
Shmygal also said Ukraine would seek more weapons from the United States – precisely the course of action that Putin has warned against.
The Kremlin annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then backed rebels fighting government troops in the east of the country. That conflict has killed 14,000 people, according to Kyiv, and is still simmering.
In May, Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders numbered 100,000, the most since its Crimea takeover, Western officials say. Ukraine says there are more than 90,000 there now.
Moscow has dismissed as inflammatory Ukrainian suggestions that it is preparing for an attack, said it does not threaten anyone and defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it wishes.
Britain and Germany echoed the NATO warnings.
“We will stand with our fellow democracies against Russia’s malign activity,” said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “NATO’s support for Ukraine is unbroken…Russia would have to pay a high price for any sort of aggression.”
(Additional reporting by John Chalmers in Brussels; writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Robin Emmott and Mark Trevelyan; editing by Mark Heinrich)
Jazz singer Josephine Baker first Black woman honoured at France’s Pantheon
Josephine Baker, the famed French American singer and dancer, was inducted on Tuesday into the Pantheon mausoleum in Paris – one of France’s highest honours – at a ceremony attended by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Baker, who also served in the French Resistance during World War Two and was a prominent civic rights activist after the war, is the first Black woman and sixth woman to enter the Pantheon, a Paris landmark dominating the city’s Latin Quarter.
She was “a Black person who stood up for Black people, but foremost, she was a woman who defended humankind,” Macron said during a speech.
He spoke shortly after Baker’s most famous song, “J’ai deux amours, mon pays et Paris” (“I have two loves, my country and Paris”), was played at the ceremony.
Baker was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1906 but went on to find much of her fame after arriving in Paris in the 1920s, as many Black Americans stayed on in the French capital after World War One and brought over with them American jazz culture.
Baker, who became a French citizen in 1937, died in 1975 and is buried in Monaco.
In accordance with her family’s wishes, Baker’s remains have not been moved to the Pantheon. To represent her presence there, a symbolic coffin was carried into the mausoleum by six pallbearers containing handfuls of earth from four locations: St. Louis, Paris, Monaco and Milandes, in the Dordogne department of France, where Baker owned a castle.
Baker’s empty coffin will lie alongside other French national icons in the mausoleum such as authors Emile Zola and Victor Hugo, the philosopher Voltaire and politician Simone Veil.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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