(BEARSKIN LAKE FIRST NATION, ON) – UPDATE: Evacuations start Monday.
EARLIER: The northern and remote community of Bearskin Lake First Nation has declared a state of emergency. Below are the details released by Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler has issued the following statement as Bearskin Lake First Nation Chief Rodney McKay has declared a State of Emergency as rapidly rising water threatens the remote community:
“Water is rising quickly from a severe ice jam and several roads are now submerged across the community. Community members are cut off from the airport and vital infrastructure including the water treatment plant has been compromised. Without immediate action the ice jam will keep building and the water will keep rising. We are in constant communication with the community and provincial and federal ministries and have requested that a coordinated response be mobilized to attempt to clear the ice jam and prepare for a possible evacuation.”
Water is backing up from an ice jam at the White Sand Rapids along the Severn River, just downstream from the community.Plans are being developed to blast the ice jam with explosives. A precautionary evacuation plan is also being developed that will use helicopters to transport isolated community members.
Bearskin Lake First Nation is a remote community on Michikan Lake located approximately 450 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout, accessible only by air and a seasonal winter road. The OjiCree community has a membership of approximately 1,000, with an on-reserve population of approximately 500.
According to members of the community, the fast current of the rushing water along with the low temperatures are causing vehicles to freeze up in place. Dump trucks have been dumping gravel, attempting to keep roads driveable, but to no very limited, if any success. The Chief says that the government is sending people to come and blast the blockage causing the floodage and will send sandbags.
Video credit: Edith Fiddler
At times, people were trapped at the airport as the roadway to the airport was flooded with various areas frozen over. As there is a state of emergency, only emergency aircrafts are allowed to land.
Due to the long weekend, many residents are doubting any substantial help or evacuation won’t happen until Tuesday. This is quite distressing as people are living in danger of many different impacts this incident could develop into. When and if it does develop, it happens fast.
Thunder Bay, lets open up our giant heart and make the evacuees feel cared for and welcomed.