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Cargoes back up across Canada after ‘storm of the century’

The Port of Vancouver, the busiest maritime gateway in Canada, has become a de facto island after the largest storm in a century to hit British Columbia took out road, rail and pipeline links.

Miners, retailers and agricultural exporters have scrambled to find alternative ports in the wake of the storms that have left Vancouver port stranded. Water and landslides have blocked the tracks of the nation’s two major railways and washed away parts of the main east-west road artery, the Trans-Canada Highway, while the the Trans Mountain pipeline, which takes crude from Alberta to the Pacific Coast, remains closed for a fifth day.

“These are extraordinary events not measured before, not contemplated before,” B.C. premier John Horgan told reporters yesterday while declaring a state of emergency. Horgan said that the volume of rain that fell on Merritt, a town of 7,000 people northeast of Vancouver, was three times the historical high.

Some of the worst flooding has been near the town of Lytton, which grabbed global headlines in June when it burnt to the ground after recording the highest temperature ever in Canada — 49.6 degrees Celsius.

In an operational update yesterday, the Port of Vancouver said the flooding continued to hamper shipping activity.

“CN and CP main rail corridors are not currently operational between Vancouver and Kamloops due to washouts and landslides,” the port advised. A timeline for fully restored rail operations to the west coast is currently unavailable.

“Vessel delays and heightened anchorage demand due to disrupted terminal operations are expected,” the port warned.

All main highway routes to the Metro Vancouver area are closed. Resumption of traffic is expected this weekend.

Teck Resources, a copper and coal miner, said it is diverting trains from Vancouver to a Prince Rupert terminal. Canpotex, a potash export company, announced it will ship more of its cargoes through its smaller terminals in Portland, Oregon and Saint John, New Brunswick.

More than 1,500 rail cars carrying grain were estimated to be idled in the Vancouver corridor on Wednesday, up sharply from 947 on Tuesday.

The flooding in B.C.’s Fraser Valley area which saw a month’s worth of rain fall in just two days could rank among the costliest natural disasters in Canada’s history, both in terms of the bill to repair the damage and the broader costs to the country’s economy, with imports and exports put on hold, one Canadian economist warned yesterday.

“Thinking about this from a provincial and federal perspective, this is an absolutely massive disruption and there are going to be costs in terms of both construction and lost economic activity because of the hindrance on international trade,” Kent Fellows, an economist with the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, told Reuters yesterday.

Credit Splash 24 by Sam Chambers

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