We're still in emergency mode: B.C. Agriculture Minister on flood recovery
British Columbia has begun receiving U.S. fuel supplies by sea to help ease shortages triggered by some of the worst floods on record, while the government warned residents to hunker down as fresh storms hit the disaster-ravaged province.
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming told reporters Thursday that refined fuel is being barged in from the U.S. to help maintain fuel supplies. The government has ordered gas stations to ensure their reserves until Dec. 1 as it looks to bring fuel from as far away as Oregon and California.
Two U.S.-flagged fuel tankers called Vision and Florida have arrived in Vancouver from Washington state, ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. Both were heading toward open ocean from Puget Sound when they turned sharp right to venture toward Vancouver. U.S. flagged tankers typically don’t make deliveries to non-U.S. ports because of higher costs versus foreign tankers, and neither ship had sailed into foreign ports in the last year, the data show. The Canadian Fuels Association, which represents the transportation fuel industry, didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
British Columbia, a major conduit to Asia and home to Canada’s largest port, is seeking to restore transit links and the movement of goods after floods and mudslides forced thousands of evacuations, washed away sections of highways and damaged railways. Gasoline sales have been rationed in the Vancouver area, while critical exports such as lumber and grain are backed up, unable to get to the Port of Vancouver.
Fresh rains pummeled the coastal region again on Thursday -- the first of three big pulses of storms set to arrive with increasing intensity through Tuesday -- which could further complicate recovery efforts.
“The time to prepare is now,” said Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s minister of public safety, urging residents to storm-proof homes, clear gutters, and stock up on emergency supplies. Travel restrictions remain in place under a state of emergency imposed earlier this month.
The province was virtually cut off from the rest of Canada for days by land with highways blocked and railways damaged. On Wednesday, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. said its trains had just begun moving again, but slowly.
“We are not seeing shipping relief yet,” said Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, which represents major exporters including Glencore Plc’s Viterra and Richardson International.
Only 20 westbound trains have moved and “only a fraction” of those are bulk grain trains, Sobkowich said. The nation’s grain elevator system is about 75 per cent full, and all that grain is ready to move, he said.
Canadian National Railway Co. said trains resumed moving Wednesday between Vancouver and Prince George, about 500 kilometers to the north. But the corridor from Canada’s third-largest city eastward to Kamloops will remain closed due to new weather-related issues, CN spokesman Jonathan Abecassis said Thursday in an email.
Trans Mountain is working to resume operations on its Alberta-to-Vancouver pipeline, a key supplier of both oil and fuel to the region. The company, which said as recently as Wednesday that it was optimistic the line could be restarted in some capacity by the end of the week, failed to provide any restart timeline in Thursday’s update.