© Bonny Makarewicz/Vancouver Sun
The slide path of the avalanche from the Capricorn Glacier near Meager Creek, August 6, 2010.
Vancouver - A melting glacier triggered a massive rock slide on the unstable slope of a dormant volcano near Pemberton, B.C., on Friday, diverting a river, blocking a creek and raising concern that a newly formed lake behind the slide could flood the valley below.

Provincial emergency officials were assessing the danger posed by the avalanche on Capricorn Mountain, 65 km north of Pemberton, which left an earth-and-debris dam 300 metres wide and two kilometres long. It spanned nearly the entire breadth of the valley.

An evacuation alert was issued for parts of the Lil'wat First Nation's lands.

The slide stranded 13 campers who were airlifted out. There were no reports of anyone killed or injured.

The slide hit at about 5:30 a.m. Friday below the melting Capricorn Glacier. A 10-kilometre-long lake formed behind the dam after the slide blocked Meager Creek and forced the Lillooet River to cut a new channel. Debris from the slide blocked access to the main road into a popular hiking and camping area 35 kilometres north of Pemberton, which is 150 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

The campers, who were from Metro Vancouver, Toronto and the Pemberton/Whistler region, were taken from the area by helicopter. Five local miners voluntarily stayed on high ground behind the slide area.

"The Capricorn Glacier has given way and fallen on Meager Creek," Whistler RCMP spokesman Sgt. Shawn LeMay said. The debris blocking the creek is "made up of soil rock and snow that's fallen from Capricorn Mountain."

Officials from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the ministries of forests and environment were on the site to assess the safety threat to nearby residents and determine whether there should be more road closures.

"We are assessing that dam created by the slide to assess what the potential impact downstream will be," said Ian Indridson, spokesman for the Provincial Emergency Program.

Few people live in the Meager Creek area, which is mainly farms and aboriginal lands.

Casey Van DenHeuvel, executive director of the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, said some employees were told by the Lil'Wat First Nation that their homes might have to be evacuated.

Others who lived close to the Lillooet River were also worried. Shirley Laven, whose home is near the avalanche, didn't have time to talk when contacted by The Vancouver Sun.

"We're going to be leaving, we're packing stuff up," she said, and hung up.

But Denise Vanloon, whose farm is on the Hurley Forest Service Road leading to Meager Creek hot springs, refused to leave, saying she was doing what she always does in these situations: baking muffins. As she looked out her window, she could see a convoy of trucks heading down the road.

"I haven't heard a whole lot," Vanloon said. "There were a few people who started hooking up their fifth wheels and motorhomes just in case - they're probably gone by now."

Vanloon said she was more concerned about people being stranded in the area. On Thursday, a couple of young men from Alberta passed by her property on their way to the hot springs, she said, but she warned them not to go because "we know there's been a few bad signals (that there could be slides) up there the last little bit."

One resident said slides occur frequently in the area.

The avalanche forced Great Pacific Pumice Inc., which has a mine in the area, to stop work after water and debris wiped out the main road to the mine.

Mine spokesman Sandy Biln said he wasn't sure when his workers would be able to return to work, which was already limited to four and half months of the year because of the weather.

Source: The Vancouver Sun