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Rescuers lift hundreds of motorists trapped on B.C. highway to safety –



Rescuers, using helicopters, are lifting hundreds of people to safety after they were trapped along a southern B.C. highway amid landslides caused by extreme weather.

The landslides, which occurred on Sunday on Highway 7 near Agassiz, B.C., about 125 kilometres east of Vancouver, came as communities in southern parts of the province dealt with heavy rainfall.

As many as 275 people, among them 50 children, have been trapped on the stretch of highway since Sunday evening, according to a joint news release from the City of Vancouver and Canada Task Force 1, the locally based urban search and rescue team.

The rescuers were joined by Chilliwack Search and Rescue and a geotechnical engineer to survey the area for anyone who may be trapped in the debris, the statement said.

Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopters started the first of multiple rescue flights on Monday, transporting evacuees between the slide area and a reception centre in nearby Agassiz.

WATCH | Rescuers face ‘very dangerous situation’: 

Rescue team near Agassiz, B.C., prepares to free travellers trapped by mudslides

14 hours ago

The CBC’s Heather Hiscox talks to David Boone, the director of the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, about the hazards they face to free dozens of people trapped between two mudslides near Agassiz, B.C. ‘It is a very dangerous situation,’ said Boone. (Shane Mackichan) 17:09

David Boone, the team director of the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Task Force team in B.C. and an assistant chief at the Vancouver Fire Department, said his team arrived to support members of the fire department in Agassiz, who had already rescued at least 12 people trapped in vehicles from the debris flow.

Two others were rescued on the east side, by either a search and rescue team or workers from the fire department in Hope, he told CBC News Network.

A vehicle is caught in a landslide near Agassiz, B.C., on Monday. (Susana da Silva/CBC News)

“What complicates this situation is we have two slides on Highway 7 and we have people that were trapped in the debris … and some have been rescued,” Boone told CBC’s Heather Hiscox, noting that officials are not yet sure if there are other vehicles missing and other people who are not accounted for.

He said officials believe there are approximately 50 vehicles trapped on Highway 7 in between the two debris fields, with approximately two to three people in each vehicle.

B.C. Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said search-and-rescue crews were mobilized early in the morning, but the conditions have been difficult.

Officials believe about 50 vehicles are trapped on Highway 7 between the two debris fields, with approximately two to three people in each vehicle. (Julia Murray)

“This is a very harrowing time,” he said at a news conference late Monday afternoon. “People are working as hard and fast and safe as they can.”

Farnworth said that there are no known fatalities connected to the ongoing storms and mudslides across the province.

WATCH | B.C. minister defends response: 

B.C. minister defends response to travellers stuck in mudslides

10 hours ago

British Columbia’s Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth was pressed by reporters to explain the provincial response to residents currently stranded by mudslides near the small community of Agassiz, B.C., in the southern part of the province. 1:47

Boone said he spoke to a nurse who was travelling in one of the vehicles who was doing assessments. The nurse found those they had seen were “safe and secure at this time.” People trapped between the slides have been urged to stay in their vehicles for now, he said.

‘It’s very scary’

Martina Martinkova, who was trapped in her vehicle with her daughter on Highway 7, said she was “very stressed.”

“We don’t have any information,” she said in an interview with Heather Hiscox Monday morning. She said she’s been trying for hours to find out what will happen with rescue efforts.

People were starting to share their food and water, she said, noting that she saw at least one family on the highway with a baby.

She said she’s been in touch with her loved ones, who know she and her daughter are safe.

“You see this in the movies, honestly, and you thought it will never touch you,” she said. “It’s very scary.”

Adam Wuisman and his fiancé were travelling back to their home in Richmond, B.C., on Highway 7, following a weekend trip in Nelson, when he said a landslide came down behind them. 

“We were going westbound and there were huge lines of traffic … and all of a sudden, I noticed there’s no vehicles behind us, which was odd,” he told CBC’s The Early Edition on Monday morning. 

“We must have just missed the first [landslide] and now somehow we’re between both of them.” 

WATCH | ‘I’m so scared,’ says mother trapped in car with daughter:

Trapped traveller near Agassiz, B.C., describes close brush with mudslide

11 hours ago

Martina Martinkova tells CBC’s Heather Hiscox that she and her daughter were about two minutes away from being pounded by one of the mudslides near Agassiz, B.C. ‘We were lucky it didn’t hit us.’ 8:02

The pair have been stuck on that stretch of Highway 7 since 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Wuisman said. 

“It’s a very eerie feeling here,” he described. 

“When we got here, everybody had their headlights on and then slowly, as the hours passed, headlights went off and everything became pitch-black.”

Emergency officials said they don’t yet have a complete picture of how many people are trapped. Wuisman, however, said he thinks there are far more than 50 vehicles stuck — estimating around 200 to 300 vehicles stranded on that patch of highway. 

“I definitely heard people screaming for help,” he said. 

“It’s kind of helpless to feel like you’re between a very vulnerable mountainside side and the Fraser River on the other side. And there’s really nothing you can do about it, but hope nothing comes down on top of you.”

Fire crews responding to a mudslide on Highway 7 near Agassiz, B.C., gather at a command post set up at a nearby gas station on Sunday. (Shane Mackichan)

Officials hope to survey from air

Boone, who noted that officials are “still a bit blind” on the full scope of the issue, said the stability of the ground and issues around hydro wires are complicating the rescue efforts.

He said it’s too dangerous to get close right now, noting that further assessments will come at daybreak.

“We’re assessing as to the best access points for us to make entry into the area,” he said, noting that rescue workers will co-ordinate with CP Rail as the best way in may be along a rail line.

“We won’t put our rescuers into the area until we determine it’s safe to do so,” he said, noting that they hope to be able to survey from the air later in the day.

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Canada joins diplomatic boycott of Beijing Games – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Published Wednesday, December 8, 2021 12:43PM EST

Last Updated Wednesday, December 8, 2021 4:27PM EST

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will join a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year, citing extensive human rights abuses by the Communist regime in the host country.

The decision comes two days after the United States announced it would not send government officials to the Olympics over concerns about China’s human rights record, and particularly allegations of genocide against the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang province.

Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have all since followed suit.

Trudeau said Canada too is “extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government.”

“I don’t think the decision by Canada or by many other countries to choose to not send a diplomatic representation to the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics is going to come as a surprise to China,” he said Wednesday.

“We have been very clear over the past many years of our deep concerns around human rights violations and this is a continuation of us expressing our deep concerns for human rights violations.”

A diplomatic boycott means Canadian athletes can and will still compete but no government officials will attend, including Pascale St-Onge, the new minister of sport.

While it has been rare in recent years for the prime minister to attend an Olympics, Canada normally sends multiple government representatives including cabinet ministers and often the governor general.

Last summer, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough represented the Canadian government at the delayed Tokyo Olympics. In 2018 in Pyeongchang, Trudeau requested then-governor general Julie Payette attend for Canada. Kirsty Duncan, then the sport minister, attended both the Olympics and Paralympics along with several staff members.

Former governor general David Johnston attended for Canada at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

There were some calls for countries to stage a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing over human rights concerns, or at least to refuse to attend the opening ceremonies. But former prime minister Stephen Harper rejected that idea and sent his foreign affairs minister, David Emerson, to attend the games, including the opening ceremonies.

China denies allegations of human rights abuses and is accusing the United States of upending the political neutrality of sport. Chinese diplomats slammed the decisions by the U.S. and Australia, accusing countries of using the Olympics as a pawn, and adding several times that “nobody cares” whether diplomats attend the Games.

Mac Ross, a kinesiology professor at Western University’s International Centre for Olympic Studies, said Canada is sending a message to China and the International Olympic Committee that it “will not support the hosting of Olympic Games against the backdrop of widespread human rights violations.”

Ross also said China’s accusation that the boycotts politicize the Olympics ignores how many times China itself boycotted the Games.

“The People’s Republic of China has staged full boycotts of the Olympics multiple times, on purely political grounds,” Ross said. “Why are boycotts suddenly unacceptable? The answer is simple: they place the regime’s human rights record front and centre.”

In a written statement, Canadian Olympic Committee CEO David Shoemaker and Canadian Paralympic Committee CEO Karen O’Neill said they respect the decision made by the government.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee remain concerned about the issues in China but understand the Games will create an important platform to draw attention to them,” they said. “History has shown that athlete boycotts only hurt athletes without creating meaningful change.”

The Chinese Embassy in Canada has not yet reacted to Canada’s decision, but tweeted ahead of the announcement that “the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are about athletic excellence and global unity. Stop using it as a platform for grandstanding and division.”

China threatened to take “countermeasures” against the U.S. but has not specified what that means.

Trudeau said Wednesday concerns about arbitrary detention of any foreign nationals by the Chinese government continues to be a concern but that Canada will do everything necessary to ensure the safety of Canadian athletes competing in Beijing.

“We know that our athletes need to have one thing in mind that is representing their countries to the best of their ability and winning that gold medal for Canada,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said the RCMP are always involved in ensuring security for Canada’s athletes and that Canada’s diplomatic missions in China will also be helping ensure the athletes have everything they need.

Canada’s diplomatic relationship with China is still strained following nearly three years of tension over China’s detention of two Canadians. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were finally released from Chinese prison in September.

Canada always alleged they were detained in retaliation for its decision to arrest Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States, which wanted her extradited there to face fraud charges.

The two Michaels, as Kovrig and Spavor came to be called, were freed the same day Meng struck a plea deal with the U.S. and was released from Canada.

Opposition Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said he supports a diplomatic boycott but accused Trudeau of lagging behind Canada’s allies in making the decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC News



The latest:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tighter restrictions Wednesday to stem the spread of the omicron variant, urging people in England to again work from home and mandating COVID-19 passes for entrance into nightclubs and large events.

Johnson said it was time to impose stricter measures to prevent a spike of hospitalizations and deaths as the new coronavirus variant spreads rapidly in the community.

“It has become increasingly clear that omicron is growing much faster than the previous delta variant and is spreading rapidly all around the world,” he said in a news conference. “Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of omicron could currently be between two and three days.”

Johnson said that 568 cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed across the U.K., and “the true number is certain to be much higher.”

He said beginning next Monday, people should work from home if possible. Starting on Friday, the legal requirement to wear a face mask will be widened to most indoor public places in England, including cinemas. Next week, having a COVID-19 pass showing that a person has had both vaccine doses will be mandatory to enter nightclubs and places with large crowds.

Overall, the British government reported another 51,342 confirmed daily cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, with 161 more people dying.

WATCH | Lawmakers blast Johnson over holiday party allegations: 

U.K. PM blasted over allegations of rule-breaking party

7 hours ago

Duration 3:15

‘How does the prime minister sleep at night?’ Labour MP asks as lawmakers blast Boris Johnson over holiday party allegations. (Credit: Reuters TV) 3:15

The announcement came as Johnson and his government faced increasing pressure to explain reports that Downing Street staff enjoyed a Christmas party that breached the country’s coronavirus rules last year, when people were banned from holding most social gatherings. Johnson on Wednesday ordered an inquiry and said he was “furious” about the situation.

The revelations have angered many in Britain, with critics saying they heavily undermine the authority of Johnson’s Conservative government in imposing virus restrictions.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 2:55 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Tracking Canada’s 1st home-grown COVID-19 vaccine: 

The importance of Canada’s 1st home-grown COVID-19 vaccine

19 hours ago

Duration 4:52

Quebec company Medicago is getting ready to submit data about its COVID-19 vaccine for final regulatory approval, which is a significant step for the pandemic and Canada’s bio-pharmaceutical industry. 4:52

What’s happening around the world

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 267.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University, which maintains an online database of global cases. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.

Children stand near a statue on a crowded street in Madrid on Wednesday as many pedestrians wear masks to protect themselves against COVD-19. (Susana Vera/Reuters)

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Wednesday that governments need to reassess national responses to COVID-19 and speed up vaccination programs to tackle the omicron variant, though it is too early to say how well existing shots will protect against it.

The variant’s global spread suggests it could have a major impact on the pandemic, and the time to contain it is now before more omicron patients are hospitalized, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“We call on all countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencing,” he told a media briefing. “Any complacency now will cost lives.”

In Europe, France’s Ile-de-France region — with the capital Paris at its centre — said all hospitals are activating an emergency plan due to the strained COVID-19 situation. The plan includes stepping up the number of ICU beds and, if necessary, rescheduling treatments to free up capacities.

Meanwhile, European Union health ministers discussed measures to try to halt the spread of the omicron variant, with the Netherlands calling for negative tests for incoming travellers from outside the bloc and France urging tests even for those arriving from EU states.

Poland and several other countries in central and eastern Europe are battling their latest surges of coronavirus cases and deaths while continuing to record much lower vaccination rates than in western Europe.

In Russia, more than 1,200 people with COVID-19 died every day throughout most of November and for several days in December, and the daily death toll remains over 1,100. Ukraine, which is recording hundreds of virus deaths a day, is emerging from its deadliest period of the pandemic.

A health-care worker gives a booster shot against COVID-19 in Warsaw on Tuesday. (Czarek Sokolowski/The Associated Press)

Meanwhile, the mortality rate in Poland — while lower than it was in the spring — recently hit more than 500 deaths per day and still has not peaked. Intensive care units are full, and doctors report that more children require hospitalization, including some who went through COVID-19 without symptoms but then suffered strokes.

The situation has created a dilemma for Poland’s government, which has urged citizens to get vaccinated but clearly worries about alienating voters who oppose vaccine mandates or any restrictions on economic life.

In the Americas, the number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 reached 200 million Wednesday amid a dispiriting holiday-season spike in cases and hospitalizations that has hit even New England, one of the most highly inoculated corners of the country. 

WATCH | U.S. could reach over 800,000 deaths by 2022: 

U.S. on track for over 800,000 COVID-19 deaths before 2022

19 hours ago

Duration 1:57

COVID-19 cases in the United States are on the rise, with the country on track to record more than 800,000 deaths by the end of the year. The White House is pushing vaccinations over lockdowns, but some Canadian health units are cautioning against non-essential travel to parts of the U.S. 1:57

Brazil will require that unvaccinated travellers entering the country go on a five-day quarantine followed by a COVID-19 test, after its president said he opposed the use of a vaccine passport.

In Africa, South Africa reported nearly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, a record since the omicron variant was detected, and 36 new COVID-related deaths. It was not immediately clear how many of the infections were caused by omicron, given only a fraction of samples are sequenced, but experts believe it’s driving South Africa’s fourth wave of infections.

A weekly epidemiological report published Tuesday by WHO said that in the Middle East, the most cases reported last week were in:

  • Jordan, with 32,108 reported cases.
  • Iran, with 26,255 reported cases.
  • Lebanon, with 10,406 reported cases.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea will consider expanding home treatment of COVID-19 patients, as both new daily infections and severe cases hit record highs, putting hospital capacity under strain.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 4:05 p.m. ET

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U.S. Senator asks FTC to probe Facebook’s ad practices



U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell on Wednesday asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Meta Platforms’ Facebook misled its advertising customers and the public about the reach of its advertisements, according to a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

“I urge the FTC to immediately commence an investigation into Facebook’s representations with respect to brand safety, Potential Reach, and similar metrics with respect to its advertising business and, if that investigation reveals that the company has in fact violated the law, to pursue all available sanctions as appropriate,” the letter said.


(Reporting by Chris Sanders; editing by Diane Craft)

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