Canadian military rescues drivers from snowy highway

Image caption,
Local and provincial police and the Canadian military were involved in rescue efforts

The Canadian military has rescued more than 237 motorists trapped by snow on an Ontario highway, some for more than 24 hours in frigid weather.

Helicopters helped with rescue efforts along on a 30km (18-mile) stretch of road, after a flash snow storm halted traffic on Monday morning.

Motorists rescued from Highway 402 were taken to "warming" centres.

A state of emergency was declared in Lambton County, south-west of Toronto, where the vehicles became trapped.

Initial reports suggested about 300 people were stranded near Sarnia, on Lake Huron, near the US border, but police later said that figure was based on how many vehicles were stuck in the snow.

Some individuals may have made their way out on their own.

"All motorists on Highway 402 have been evacuated but abandoned vehicles are still on the highway," said defence spokesman Jay Paxton.

"The secondary roads are now being searched for any stranded motorists."

Military helicopters helped rescue 66 people along the highway and evacuated one person for medical reasons, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said.

Forecasters had warned of a "snow squall" that led to conditions of zero visibility earlier on Tuesday.

Snow was reportedly piled up to 2m (6ft) high in some areas.

Despite the bitter cold conditions, police said no deaths or serious injuries had been reported.

'Brutal' storm

Ontario police Sgt David Rektor told CBC News that emergency workers had maintained telephone contact with the stranded motorists overnight from Monday into Tuesday.

John Stover and Larry Adams told the Toronto Star newspaper they were heading to their jobs in Sarnia about 0615 local time on Monday when the storm hit and they were stranded between highway exits.

"We're tight on gas," Mr Stover told the newspaper by telephone earlier on Tuesday.

"We've run the car every hour for 10 minutes. Luckily, Larry had a work function and had three loaves of banana-type bread. People around us had water," he said.

Several people refused to leave their vehicles when rescue workers reached them, deciding instead to wait for snow ploughs to clear the roads.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley described the storm as the most brutal to hit the area in 25 years.

"We are urging people not to try to travel," he told CNN.

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