June 17, 2016 / 6:47 PM / 4 years ago

Flooded Canadian towns in gas heartland declare state of emergency

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Intense flooding has prompted two northern communities in the Canadian province of British Columbia to declare states of emergency, just a month after forest fires prompted evacuations in the region.

An aerial photo shows flooding in the City of Dawson Creek after heavy rain in this image posted on social media in British Columbia, Canada on June 16, 2016. Courtesy City of Dawson Creek/Handout

The city of Dawson Creek, which sits atop the gas rich Montney formation, declared a state of emergency on Friday due to heavy rain that washed out bridges, flooded sewers and forced some 60 people from their homes, the mayor said.

“It was a crazy, crazy couple of days,” Mayor Dale Bumstead said, adding that the rain had stopped and the town’s focus was now on assessing the damage and rebuilding.

The town of Chetwynd, some 100 km (62 miles) west of Dawson Creek, declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.

Both communities are south of Fort St. John, the hub city for British Columbia’s energy industry. Pembina Pipeline shut its crude-carrying Western Pipeline on Thursday, after rain and erosion exposed a portion of the line.

On Friday the company said there was currently no timeline for when operations would restart.

“We are assessing the situation and working with the provincial government, regulator and industry partners to safely access the area for an inspection,” Pembina spokesman Jason Fydirchuk said.

It was not immediately clear if other energy companies had been affected by the flooding. Bumstead said that while major highways around the city were damaged by the rain, workers could still access nearby energy projects using back roads.

Pipeline company TransCanada Corp said there was a fair distance between where the flooding was taking place and its assets in northern British Columbia, and it did not expect operations to be affected.

In May, a handful of small communities north of Fort St. John were evacuated as intense wildfires tore through northeast British Columbia. A separate wildfire in Northern Alberta forced the evacuation of 90,000 people and shut in more than a million barrels per day of oil output.

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Andrew Hay

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