View above Merritt of flooding. (Facebook)

Merritt residents fleeing floods evacuate to Kelowna

Interior Health has closed the Nicola Valley Hospital

The mudslides rolled over the highway during an “atmospheric river” that brought a deluge of rain and flooding to the southwest and central parts of the province and forced an evacuation order in the Interior town of Merritt on Monday.

By 4 p.m. Monday (Nov. 15) all access into the city was prohibited.

Barricades were erected on Voght Street at the city’s northern junction of Highway 5, on Coldwater Road at the entrance from the southern junction of Highway 5, and Highway 8 at the western entrance to Merritt. RCMP stood by to ensure no one enters the city.

Merritt issued an evacuation order for its population of about 7,000, saying residents could not use water from faucets or flush toilets.

The city’s population started making its way to Kelowna on Monday, with the first 50 arriving at Parkinson Recreation Centre at 11 p.m.

By Tuesday afternoon, volunteers had seen a total of about 150 residents of Merritt walk through the door and Emergency Support Services Director Mel Caprarie is expecting close to an additional 100 to register themselves as evacuees by Tuesday night.

“There’s two busses coming in, one from Kamloops and one from Princeton with people from Merritt,” he said. “We’ll be registering them, putting them into hotels and giving them food from restaurants until Thursday.

“After Thursday, we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement posted on Twitter that the federal government is ready to help British Columbians affected by flooding and extreme weather.

“To the people of Merritt, and to all British Columbians affected by the flooding: please stay safe,” he said.

Interior Health (IH) began to evacuate all clients and patients within Merritt, Monday evening.

The health authority evacuated care home residents from Coquihalla Gillis House, Nicola Meadows and The Florentine, as well as patients from the Nicola Valley Hospital and all community health clients.

The Nicola Valley Hospital and emergency department are closed until further notice. Anyone who requires emergency care should call 911 or visit the emergency department at the Kelowna General Hospital or the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

(With files from Canadian Press)

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StormThompson Nicola Regional District