Flooding communications problem leaving communities out of the loop

Flooding in Jean-Marie River. (Supplied by Tyrone Sanguez.)
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MLAs are calling for greater communication from the GNWT to residents impacted by flooding in NWT communities, as winter breakup season continues to see water levels rise.

Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs Paulie Chinna says while the response may have seemed slow, she said the department is moving quickly to organize a disaster committee to distribute information and submit applications to the federal government for financial assistance.

Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos said she had heard from local Chiefs they wanted a GNWT staffer available as a single point of contact for when they deal with flooding concerns.

Martselos added some residents had been left in the dark for periods with the GNWT’s communication with communities not being sufficient.

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“It’s horrible what they must be going through, and it’s horrible to lose your home, and then have to figure out the bureaucracy is not acceptable,” said Cochrane, speaking in the Legislative Assembly.

Cochrane added she has met with Chinna and committed to approaching communications with communities more compassionately

Chinna says she has been meeting with communities impacted by flooding for the past four weeks and direct communication was being handled by regional officers and the Emergency Management Organization.

Chinna added that the priority was on assessing damages to homes and then ensuring people can return to their homes safely.

While both Martselos and MLA for Hay River South Rocky Simpson had called for more information about when money would be made available to impacted residents, Cochrane and Chinna said assessments would need to be conducted first

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Cochrane added that covering the costs of damages and temporary shelter for people in impacted communities is made complicated by the fact some people may have insurance or be eligible for federal funding.

Flooding is continuing to spread throughout the NWT as ice continues to melt along the territory’s rivers. 

A number of Aklavik residents were recently evacuated to Inuvik as water breached the banks in that community. A State of Emergency was recently declared in Fort Good Hope as flood waters entered several houses in the community.

Elsewhere, Hay River is beginning repair efforts on roads in some parts of town, with damage assessments happening in Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson.

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