Aklavik begins evacuation of 'Elders and the vulnerable' amid rising water levels

·2 min read
Flooding near Horseshoe Bend in the Northwest Territories' Beaufort Delta region. As spring breakup causes waters to rise, Elders and vulnerable residents of Aklavik, N.W.T., are being evacuated. (Submitted by Maring Wade - image credit)
Flooding near Horseshoe Bend in the Northwest Territories' Beaufort Delta region. As spring breakup causes waters to rise, Elders and vulnerable residents of Aklavik, N.W.T., are being evacuated. (Submitted by Maring Wade - image credit)

Elders and other vulnerable community members in Aklavik, N.W.T., are being temporarily relocated to nearby Inuvik as the community government says they are on "very high alert" for potential flooding.

The remote community of roughly 600 people is the latest to implement a flood watch as historic high water levels driven by the annual spring break-up push down the Mackenzie River toward the Arctic Ocean.

According to a release signed by the mayor and council of the hamlet, staff with the community government will be on a "24-hour flood watch" over the weekend.

Ice jams on the Mackenzie River threaten to spill water over the garbage dump road, which will trigger a state of emergency, it said.

"We ask that all residents be prepared and listen in to the radio station," the release reads.

'Not our first rodeo'

Aklavik Mayor Andrew Charlie said on CBC's Trail's End Friday evening that water levels were currently at 15.2 metres. That's roughly one metre below the levels reached during the last major flood in 2006.

If the dump road is breached, the hamlet won't "be able to do any services for the houses in our community," Charlie said. "So that's when we'll be calling a state of emergency."

But Charlie said the community had done well preparing, getting "valuables up off the ground" and ensuring a reliable supply of food and water.

Aklavik Mayor Andrew Charlie said the community was well-prepared for flooding. 'It's not our first rodeo,' he said.
Aklavik Mayor Andrew Charlie said the community was well-prepared for flooding. 'It's not our first rodeo,' he said.(Hamlet of Aklavik)

Aklavik regularly sees some flooding in springtime, he said.

"Our community has to be prepared for this," he told Trail's End host Lawrence Nayally.

"It's not our first rodeo," Charlie said.

The head nurse in the community compiled a list of those who needed to be moved first and roughly 26 Elders were being relocated so far, he said.

He said he was working with the territory's Department of Municipal and Community Affairs in Inuvik to ensure there were the necessary facilities and staff to greet them.

The release said escorts will travel with Elders and other vulnerable residents on their journey.

Conserve water, prepare supplies: hamlet

In their release, the hamlet asked residents to conserve water, and to ensure they have all their medications, water, food and a first aid kit.

Speaking Friday, Charlie cautioned that anyone heading out on the land should prepare to be stuck behind flowing ice for a few days as it moves downriver.

Aklavik is the latest of several communities to be affected by historic flooding along the Mackenzie River. Earlier this month, more than 700 people were displaced in the Dehcho communities of Fort Simpson and in Jean Marie River, where more than half the houses were damaged by floodwaters.

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