Three Indigenous communities in northern Alberta are under states of local emergency after flooding forced hundreds of people out of their homes with no clear timeline as to when they will be able to return.
Heavy rain and melting snow overflowed the Sousa Creek Basin and local waterways in Chateh, west of High Level, prompting evacuations from the Dene Tha’ First Nation at Chateh and Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement and the possibility of such from Little Red River Cree Nation at John D’Or Prairie. Officials say nearly 1,000 people have been forced from their homes, mostly from Dene Tha’.
Many parts of Manitoba have also been hard-hit with flooding. About 30 municipalities and First Nations are under local states of emergency and forecasted rainfall could make things worse in coming days. One of the most affected areas is Peguis First Nation, about 160 kilometres north of Winnipeg, where some 1,800 people have been evacuated as of Monday.
Greg Smith, chief of staff to Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver, said approximately 676 evacuees have been registered in High Level and some residents may need to be sent to Peace River and other nearby communities. An estimated 940 people have been affected by the overland flooding.
“Alberta’s government has people on the ground to help impacted Albertans with relocations, with access to medical and social services, with road repairs and with overall co-ordination of the emergency response,” Mr. Smith said in a statement, adding flood-protection barriers called Tiger Dams have been set up around houses and the Beaver First Nation is providing additional aid.
“The safety and security of people in the flood-affected areas is our highest priority.”
Mr. Smith said up to 30 homes have been evacuated on the Métis settlement. Residents of the Little Red River Cree Nation have not been ordered to leave but the government said it could be required if access to their homes becomes unsafe or restricted.
The Alberta Emergency Management Agency is monitoring the situation and First Nation field officers are on the ground assisting the agency. Field officers provide emergency-management expertise and liaison with the Government of Alberta to ensure emergency-response actions are effective.
Justin Gaudet, chief administrative officer of Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement, said water is slowly receding, but excessive moisture combined with contaminated water has a high potential to cause mould and unlivable conditions in the 800-person community. Mr. Gaudet said damages are being assessed after water levels rose to levels never seen before.
“Some of these homes don’t have running water right now,’’ Mr. Gaudet said. “The members are very tired, very stressed, very anxious. … They’re asking for answers but we’re not sure ourselves if we’re going to have the capacity to continue to do the things we’re doing.”
RCMP spokesperson Corporal Troy Savinkoff said emergency workers remain in Chateh, about 845 kilometres north of Edmonton, and Mounties are still working to get some people to safety who have refused to leave their homes.
An advisory posted to the Alberta Environment and Parks website lists Sousa Creek Basin as a flood warning. It states between 50 and 120 millimetres of precipitation had fallen in northwestern Alberta between Grande Prairie and west of High Level last week. While no rainfall is anticipated in coming days, water levels are likely to stay high.
“Water levels are fluctuating due to snowmelt,” the advisory says. “Water levels are expected to remain high for the next two to three days. Once the water levels peak it will take a further six to seven days to fall below the flood thresholds.”
With a report from The Canadian Press
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