K'atl'odeeche First Nation welcomes members home as flooding cleanup continues

·2 min read
K'atl'odeeche First Nation Chief April Martel and a group of 12 volunteers has been assessing damages on the reserve in the wake of last week's floods. (Loren McGinnis/CBC - image credit)
K'atl'odeeche First Nation Chief April Martel and a group of 12 volunteers has been assessing damages on the reserve in the wake of last week's floods. (Loren McGinnis/CBC - image credit)

In some areas of the K'atl'odeeche First Nation reserve, pavement is caving in and buildings are leaning against power poles — but volunteers are getting as much cleaned up on Tuesday morning as they can.

Tuesday afternoon, the First Nation in N.W.T. says members can return to their homes.

Most of K'atl'odeeche's residents have been displaced since last Wednesday night, when floodwaters from the Hay River surged into the reserve and the town of Hay River and forced the evacuation of both areas.

On Tuesday morning, Chief April Martel said she and a team of 12 people have been working to clean up debris and take a look at homes so people have an idea of what they're coming back to.

"There's still large, large debris — we still have buildings sitting on the road, so before everyone comes home, we're going to try to move those buildings," she said.

Speaking of the work her team has done — right from Fire Chief Michael Sunrise, who sounded the siren Wednesday night to warn residents of flooding, to those who have spent days assessing every home — Martel said she doesn't have enough words to show her thanks.

"I can't even thank them enough for what they've done. You know, they worked around the clock to make sure [residents] come home to something," she said, holding back tears.

"They stayed behind. They left all their families to go."

What to expect

Martel said workers are putting gravel down on top of ruined pavement so people can drive into the New Village area. Old Village, she noted, hasn't been touched — it's still full of water and the ground is swampy.

Residents who can't return to their homes can stay at hotels or at the Dene Wellness Centre.

Martel said her team of volunteers has spent days cataloguing the state of houses, sewers, water tanks and basements. Some homes had up to four feet of water in them, she said.

In a notice posted to Facebook Tuesday morning, the First Nation said construction will be ongoing and asked residents to obey all signs and drive slow.

Martel said she has been in touch with the territorial Department of Municipal and Community Affairs. She has counsellors ready to come in and talk to people about the flood, to make sure they are doing OK.

She also has a meeting Tuesday with N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod to discuss housing replacements and developing a recovery plan.

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