VICTORIA — The death toll from the devastating mudslides in British Columbia climbed to four on Saturday after police recovered three more bodies from one particularly hard-hit area in the southern part of the province.
The RCMP announced the recoveries in a morning statement, though noted the bodies of the three men were recovered earlier in the week.
The Mounties said the men were found in an area east of Agassiz along Highway 7 and a section of Highway 99, known as the Duffy Lake Road.
The discovery comes days after a woman’s body was recovered near the same area on Monday.
The search for a fifth person missing after the mudslides has been suspended, though that person is not currently counted among the dead.
“All current search efforts have been exhausted and discussions are underway as to how and when, best to proceed,” Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said in a statement.
The B.C. Coroners Service issued a statement saying it would investigate the deaths and make recommendations, where possible, to prevent similar situations in the future.
“This has been an incredibly difficult year for all of us in B.C., and my heart goes out to the many families and communities who have suffered tragic losses,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said.
The rising death toll comes as the region continues to work to stem the damage from flooding and mudslides across a large swath of the province.
B.C.’s public safety minister announced restrictions on gasoline on Friday, limiting residents who are not essential workers to 30 litres of fuel per gas station visit.
Mike Farnworth said the rationing applies to B.C.’s Lower Mainland, the Sea-to-Sky region, Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. It comes after supply lines, including major highways and rail tracks, were washed out or flooded by record rainfall that started last weekend.
“My hope is that everyone understands the need for these restrictions and fully co-operates. In other words, if you don’t need to be travelling right now, don’t. Stay home. And if you can’t do that, carpool or take public transit or work from home,” he said.
Travel has also been restricted along Highways 3, 7 and 99 to ensure only essential traffic can get through.
An estimated 14,000 people were still out of their homes on Friday and about 4,700 had registered at evacuation centres, Farnworth said.
The minister was slated to provide a further update on Saturday afternoon.