Recovery, cleanup and looting in aftermath of White Rock’s storm

City to share storm-of-the-century ‘next steps’ this morning

Environmental cleanup efforts to stem the impact of Thursday’s storm of the century on White Rock’s shoreline are underway.

Search-and-rescue crews said Thursday evening that approximately 60 gas tanks were recovered by 8:30 p.m. from the wreckage of sailboats that were damaged or destroyed in the squalls that battered the waterfront and devastated the city’s 100-year-old pier.

“We just tried to pull as many as we could,” RCM-SAR5 spokesman Dean Donnelly told Peace Arch News from the scene late Thursday.

It’s estimated just eight of approximately 30 boats that were moored at the dock survived.

“They’re all shattered,” Donnelly said.

“They were already under water when you (PAN) were filming” the pier breaking apart.

READ MORE: VIDEO: White Rock pier destroyed by storm, stranded man rescued

READ MORE: Windstorm wallops Surrey, White Rock

High winds kicked up a vicious storm across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley Thursday, at points gusting around 100 km/h. Felling trees onto power lines, vehicles and homes, it left at least 300,000 in the dark for hours, and “was one of the most severe storms BC Hydro has experienced in years,” according to information on the utility’s website.

It reached its peak on White Rock’s waterfront around 2 p.m., when sailboats that broke loose from their moorings repeatedly battered the pier, causing it to break in half and stranding one man on the far end.

A Cormorant rescue helicopter was tasked from Victoria to rescue the 42-year-old, who was reportedly “purple” when crews got to him.

“He just kept getting hit by wave, after wave, after wave,” Donnelly said of the man’s hour-plus experience waiting for rescue.

As bystanders cheered, the man – who appeared in good spirits – was delivered to paramedics at the pierhead and transported to hospital.

Damage to East Beach is also extensive. The power of the storm tossed logs, boulders and even the city’s concrete picnic tables across the promenade and right up to the fence that runs alongside the BNSF track. Various underground power lines were also exposed by waves that pounded the shoreline.

City officials tweeted photos and an advisory that East Beach “is now closed until further notice” just before 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Just after 1 a.m. Friday, a second tweet implores people to “please give crews the space they need to do their work, respect the barricades in place, and be mindful of those redirecting you. They are just trying to keep you safe.”

Police told PAN Thursday night that people determined to get onto the badly damaged pier were a source of concern.

“The city has taken measures to prevent access to the pier, which is obviously closed. Despite that, people continue to attempt to gain access,” White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Daryl Creighton told PAN by text.

“The police will not be putting themselves at risk for someone making poor decisions.”

Creighton confirmed the issue continued “throughout the night.”

“Several people still gained access by climbing along the outside of the pier and then… over the rails. Several violation tickets were issued,” he said.

Creighton added that police also responded to calls of ‘looting’ of the damaged sailboats.

PAN reporter Aaron Hinks – who was at the waterfront when the pier collapse unfolded – noted the same issue when he returned to the scene late Thursday. He tweeted that “plenty of looters” were out going through the boat wreckages with flashlights.

City officials plan “to update the media on the effects of the storm and next steps” in a news conference at 11 a.m. this morning (Friday).

More to come…



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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