The search continues for four missing people – two children, a youth and an adult – after two vehicles were submerged under water in the Hants County region on Saturday due to flooding from heavy rainfall that pounded Nova Scotia this weekend.
In one instance, three of five people in a vehicle escaped flood waters, but two children did not and are now missing. In another incident, a man and youth are unaccounted for while two other passengers in their vehicle were able to get to safety.
In a statement released on Sunday, police said they completed an underwater search of a flooded field and found an unidentified pick-up truck, which is believed to be the vehicle that the children were travelling in.
“Search efforts continue in the same area for the four people and the second vehicle,” police said.
During a media availability on Sunday afternoon, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said that first responders are “focused on a safe return of these four souls”.
“To the families, you have an entire province praying for your loved ones,” he said. “It’s almost impossible for me to think about anything else right now.”
West Hants Mayor Abraham Zebian was noticeably emotional during Sunday’s press conference as he expressed his support for the families of the missing individuals.
“Four of our residents are still missing currently,” he said, fighting back tears.
“We’re doing everything we can, our hearts and prayers are going out to those families. I just want them all to know that we’re all with you.”
RCMP added that industrial pumping equipment is being mobilized in an effort to lower the water levels in the search area.
Police said the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables and Ground Search and Rescue Teams from West Hants, Colchester, and Valley are assisting in the search.
“Out of respect for the families we will not be releasing their identities or any additional personal information at this time,” the police statement said.
Police pleaded with the public to avoid taking it upon themselves to search for the missing individuals as “current conditions are dangerous and could hinder search efforts”.
Hundreds of people have been displaced and drivers were still being advised to stay off roads in the Halifax area on Sunday due to hazardous driving conditions.
About 200 people remain out of their homes in the Halifax area. More than 400 residences were evacuated in the Fancy Lake area near Bridgewater, N.S. on Saturday, but are now able to return as the order was rescinded as of Sunday afternoon.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Houston on Sunday morning regarding the ongoing flooding in the region.
In a release from the Prime Minister’s office, both leaders agreed to stay in “close communication” as the situation develops.
“The Prime Minister reiterated the Government of Canada’s commitment to supporting Nova Scotians in the days and weeks ahead to respond to the flooding,” the statement read.
A Sunday afternoon update from the Halifax Regional Municipality noted that there’s been “significant damage” to infrastructure, with many roads deemed “washed out and impassable”, adding that conditions are still not safe for vehicles or pedestrians.
The municipality said crews are currently doing assessments of damaged streets, buildings, and other infrastructure as several roads and bridges remain underwater.
“High tides are impacting the ability of the water to recede,” an update read. “The municipality hopes to see water levels start to recede tomorrow morning.”
“Bridges will require a structural assessment before they can be opened, and water levels must be at normal level to complete those assessments.”
The update continued to say that repairs will be “extensive” with some expected to take several days or weeks.
“Inspection staff are actively assessing areas and determining damage with over 400 public infrastructure service requests to-date for necessary repairs,” the release said.
Officials are asking residents experiencing flooding on their properties to shelter in place unless there is an emergency. “Extreme caution is also advised near the Sackville River and residents are advised to stay away from flood water in all areas,” the update continued.
The city has published an online live tracker to share information on blocked roads in the municipality.
Municipal offices will be closed on Monday to reduce traffic and allow crews to continue with repairs.
A torrential downpour, accompanied by persistent thunder and lightning, started around 3:30 p.m. Friday and continued through the night, causing chaos for drivers and homeowners.
It dumped more than 200 millimetres of rain in the Halifax area. The port city typically receives about 90 to 100 millimetres of rain during an average July.
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Environment Canada says some parts of Nova Scotia may have received more than 300 mm of rain in 24 hours, based on radar estimates and unofficial observations.
In response to the severe flooding, a provincewide state of emergency was declared on Saturday and will remain in effect until Aug. 5.
According to a release from the province, the emergency order will limit travel in impacted areas, allow deployment of additional assets to aid in the recovery response, and assemble a “coordinated restoration of impacted critical infrastructure”.
“This state of emergency supersedes any municipal SOE and will allow for the Province to work with its partners in a coordinated provincewide response to and recovery from this event,” a statement read.
As of 5 p.m. on Sunday, more than 2,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were without electricity, down from about 70,000 during the most severe moments of the storm.
Paul Service, strategic communications advisor for Halifax Search and Rescue, said his crews were out from Friday evening until 3 a.m. on Saturday morning conducting rescues from several buildings in the Bedford area. He said they brought about 40 people to land from flooded areas.
“And then at 5:30 (a.m.) on Saturday morning, our crews were again called out to assist with flooding in a different part of the province with some of our boat rescues,” he said.
Service said this is the third major emergency management incident that his team has been called out on this year.
“All of them have been unexpected,” he said, encouraging residents to visit the federal government’s “Get Prepared” website to receive information on what should be included in a 72-hour emergency kit.
“You don’t know when these emergencies are going to happen. You need to be prepared,” he said.
The city said all emergency flooding calls were currently being directed to Halifax Water at 902-420-9287. Call volumes remain high, and residents are asked for their patience, the city said.
According to Sunday afternoon’s update, Halifax’s transit system is also experiencing “significant” delays and detours due to extensive road damage, especially in the Sackville and Bedford area.
An evacuation centre for those dealing with power outages and flooding has opened at The East Dartmouth Community Centre at 50 Caledonia Rd. in Dartmouth. The Red Cross will be on-site to provide additional services for those who’ve been displaced.
All natural turf sports fields and ball diamonds are closed throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality. All-weather fields are open.
“Please use caution when using parks and trails and avoid areas that have been affected by flooding where there may be wash outs, debris, standing water or other unsafe conditions,” the release from the city said.
The Halifax Pride Parade, which was originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon, has been postponed and will be rescheduled, according to the city’s most recent update.
– With files from the Canadian Press