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Epic photos show how B.C. is digging itself out from ruin


The province has already reopened two routes between the Lower Mainland and the rest of Canada

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Less than two weeks after B.C. was battered by the most destructive floods in its history, the province is making stunning progress at getting back on its feet. There are now two highway routes open between the Lower Mainland and the rest of the country, the Canadian Pacific Railroad has restarted service over the Rocky Mountains and even the Trans-Mountain Pipeline is set to restart operations by week’s end. Below is a gallery of images, all taken by frontline agencies, showing B.C.’s progress at patching up the carnage from Nov. 15. 

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This panorama worthy of a Renaissance masterpiece shows a small army of heavy equipment working to restore one of the sections of the Trans-Canada Highway most damaged by the Nov. 15 flooding. Several dozen meters of highway were wiped off the face of the earth by mudslides, causing the collapse of a rail overpass and leaving a section of rail tenuously clinging to life above the destruction. This occurred at Tank Hill, which is ironically only a short drive from Lytton, B.C., the village that was almost completely destroyed by the province’s record-breaking summer wildfires.

An RCAF crew member is utterly dwarfed by the profile of a CC-177 Globemaster deployed to the Lower Mainland to deliver helicopters needed for recovery efforts. The massive cargo aircraft was able to fit three Griffon helicopters.

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This is a section of Highway 7 near Agassiz, B.C., about two hours east of Downtown Vancouver. Just one week ago, this highway was the scene of one of the more dramatic evacuations of the B.C. floods. After a line of cars was suddenly stranded by landslides both behind and in front of it, 315 people needed to be pulled to safety by an RCAF Cormorant helicopter. This is actually one of the less destructive washouts to have stricken a B.C. highway last week, with the road’s surface and foundations remaining relatively unscathed from the tonnes of material that slammed into it. Even then, restoring the highway to service has been a days-long odyssey of scooping away a mountainside’s worth of muck and fallen trees.

The Coquihalla is indisputably the highway most wrecked by the Nov. 15 floods, with even the most optimistic forecasts predicting that it won’t be restored to service until the spring. This is the Jessica Bridge, located just a few kilometres from the highway’s start point east of Hope, B.C. The Coquihalla is famous for running through some of the most treacherous terrain in Canada, and crews are now faced with the challenge of rebuilding some of its most difficult sections at the same time.

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This section of the Trans-Canada Highway in Abbotsford, B.C. is relatively typical of the undermining damage that struck many major and minor B.C. roads last week due to heavy rains. Here, the damage is so substantial that crews have needed to construct a temporary road to shore up the ground around the highway before they can even begin to consider repaving efforts.

Another badly damaged section of the Coquihalla. The rushing waters of the Coldwater River were powerful enough to strip away the highway’s entire foundations and essentially convert it into a new section of river. Thus, the first step to restoration is to literally recreate the land by piling up rocks and fill.

One of the Griffon helicopters that was shipped to B.C. in the belly of the Globemaster pictured above. Flown by 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, they’re mainly conducting reconnaissance flights to keep an eye on the shifting soils of the Fraser Valley and beyond as the land recovers.

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This particular instance of highway damage actually occurred more than three days after the Nov. 15 floods. Just as the B.C. Ministry of Transportation was beginning to reopen select routes damaged by the Monday flooding, a sinkhole severed this section of Highway 19 north of Nanaimo, B.C. It’s a potentially disheartening reminder that on top of all the damage inflicted last week, B.C. still has to contend with the usual spate of washouts, avalanches and sinkholes wrought by any typical B.C. winter.

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