Landslide forces evacuations in western Canada

Sat Aug 7, 2010 3:06pm EDT
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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Nearly 1,500 residents of a British Columbia community were allowed to return home on Saturday after fears eased that a landslide-created dam would break, flooding their homes.

Authorities had ordered the evacuations near Pemberton, British Columbia, about 93 miles north of Vancouver, after a massive landslide on Friday blocked a stream and caused water to back up behind the debris.

Geologists initially feared the debris dam would give way suddenly and flood the valley, but the water instead cut a new route through the mud and rock, allowing it to drain gradually, officials said.

The cause of the landslide was unknown, but geologists speculate melting of a glacier on Mount Meager exposed unstable rock on a dormant volcano that broke free and crashed into the wilderness valley.

Nobody was injured in the slide, but about a dozen campers were airlifted to safety on Friday, police told local media.

(Reporting by Allan Dowd, editing by Vicki Allen)