VANCOUVER – Highway and railroad closures caused by severe storms in British Columbia will have a significant and lasting impact on the province’s economy, said the president of the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
Fiona Famulak said supply chain industries will be affected and calls on all levels of government to act urgently to allocate the necessary resources to replace lost infrastructure.
“We have to move very quickly from response to recovery,” she said. “We cannot be complacent. We need our trade corridors to be reopened and the flow of people, goods and services to be restored as soon as possible. “
All major highways between British Columbia’s Lower Mainland and the interior were cut, some in multiple locations, when record precipitation washed away bridges and roads over a 24-hour period starting Sunday.
Premier John Horgan declared a state of emergency across the province at a press conference on Wednesday. He said his government was working to assess the damage and reopen supply routes as quickly and safely as possible.
“Already strained supply lines are at risk of further disruption,” Horgan said, adding that the state of emergency should help preserve basic access to services and supplies.
“Please do not accumulate items. We are confident that we can restore our supply chains in a swift and orderly manner, provided that we all act as we have done in the past two years, responding to challenges like this collaboratively and cooperative. “
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the declaration could include emergency powers to deal with hoarding and rising commodity prices.
“Our transport infrastructure is crippled,” Farnworth said, discouraging travel and calling for calm. “The rehabilitation and operational rehabilitation of our roads and railways is our number one priority. We fully recognize how important it is to reopen the Lower Mainland’s inland road links to move these supply chains. “
Following reports of food shortages and build-ups at grocery stores, Canadian food retailer Save-On-Foods said in a statement Tuesday that all shipments to and from the Lower Mainland have been suspended in due to road conditions.
“We are exploring all avenues to get the products to our stores as quickly as possible,” he said.
Farnworth said the retail board and the trucking industry have made it clear that there is a lot of supply.
“Yes, we have roads that are contested, but there are large areas of the province where those roads are not compromised and supplies are going to pass, and in these isolated communities, if supplies need to be brought in, we can. do it . “
BC Trucking Association president Dave Earle said hundreds of truck drivers were unable to complete their routes due to highway closures, but none reported being injured as a result of the flooding or landslides.
“Monday was all about protecting life and now we are focusing on the assessment, and it is clear that there is serious damage to infrastructure on at least two of our four main roads,” he said. declared. “We have hundreds of stranded commercial vehicles and we are all waiting to see how we can untie this knot.”
David Gillen, director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of British Columbia, estimates that it will take about two weeks for repairs to resume normal traffic, but it will take months for a recovery full as road works are limited during winter months.
“It will take some time before these roads are sufficiently repaired for the trucks to travel, but there is a certain degree of substitutability that there is not with the railways, because you have basically two main lines and they are both severely hampered. They have to be rebuilt, ”said Gillen.
Canada’s two largest railroads never expected to operate from the coast for days. Canadian National Railways operations manager Rob Reilly said heavy rains made the tracks impassable.
“We have taken the railroad out of service to go to Vancouver since Sunday afternoon. Quite frankly, we’ll probably be out for a few more days, ”Reilly said at a transport conference on Tuesday.
Track failures also hamper the movement of goods to and from the country’s largest port in Vancouver.
“The Vancouver Gateway is experiencing significantly disrupted rail and road movements due to widespread flooding in metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley,” the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority said in a statement Wednesday.
However, its terminals are still working, he said.
Barry Prentice, professor of supply chain management at the University of Manitoba, said importing and exporting at BC ports is a big problem if highways and railways remain unusable.
“Transportation is an invisible industry until something goes wrong,” he said. “We take this for granted more than we should as a society, because without transport we have no trade, and without trade we have no economy. “
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 17, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.