Rangers sent as Fort Simpson looks to improve evacuees’ conditions

The Canadian Rangers will be sent to help flood efforts in N.W.T. communities, including Fort Simpson, federal defence minister Harjit Sajjan said on Twitter.

Fort Simpson’s mayor, Sean Whelly, told Cabin Radio the Rangers will be asked to help residents restore the village once people can regain access. As of Saturday, the island remained closed off with no immediate sign of the situation improving.

“The reason we’re calling in the Army is because there will be a lot of hands-on work that needs to be done as the recovery happens – we’re not looking for more tents,” Whelly said, adding he hoped the Rangers arrived “self-contained and ready to work.”

“I can’t imagine it being a small clean-up,“ he said. ”It’s going to be fairly big.”

The water level in Fort Simpson had dropped slightly, to about 15.5 metres, early on Saturday afternoon. However, Whelly said, the Mackenzie River still had not fully broken. He remained “quite concerned” about its impact on existing flooding caused by the Liard River.

“There’s definitely going to be a bit of a surge,“ said the mayor. ”We just don’t know for sure how much that would be, and it certainly could put us right back to where we were or even worse.“

With the water a little lower, the village used the lull to allow residents 10-minute home visits for checks on property and to grab belongings.

Until the Mackenzie has broken and the danger has passed, there remains no end in sight to the disaster.

Whelly wants the territorial government to give Fort Simpson residents – many living in tents on higher ground – “safe and comfortable accommodations” in other communities.

“There’s a lot of people that are living in conditions where it’s not great,“ he said. ”We’ve done everything we can to make their living as manageable as possible.

“If the water goes down now, there’s not a whole lot that people can do except sit around for another week.”

He said the tents and recreation centre were not sufficient if at least another week of waiting was expected. Rain and snow affected much of the Dehcho on Friday and Saturday, worsening conditions for tent occupants.

“We’ve been doing our best but nature has kind-of conspired against us quite a bit too,“ said Whelly.

“That’s one reason why I ask: why can’t we offer people a better situation than what we have?”

The mayor said volunteers and emergency officials were experiencing fatigue after many long days in stressful conditions, while power and water are limited.

Though more than 100 people have been evacuated to Fort Smith, Whelly said people were no longer leaving Fort Simpson for the time being as the emergency management group was still working on accommodation in other communities.
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