The director of Nicola Valley’s 130-member First Nation, devastated by the floods, says he’s not sure when people will be able to return home after seeing the devastation caused by the raging floods two weeks ago.
“Our entire livelihood is washed away in 30 hours. Things are washed away – houses, fields, cattle and people. There are people there. [from the valley] still lost, “said Arnold (Arnie) Lampreau, Shackan’s first country chief.
The Shackan Indian Band is one of five First Nations located along Highway 8 between Merritt and Spences Bridge.
After a neighborhood community in the Coldwater Indian Band was put on evacuation readiness, the chief said he and others went door-to-door to alert about 45 residents living in the countryside.
About a dozen initially refused to leave, but the rising flood eventually forced them to drive out to a depth of half a meter, he said.
None of her band members have disappeared, but at least one 70-year-old woman in the area is believed to have swept away with her house.
According to Lampreau, hundreds of residents on the backwaters along Highway 8 initially fled to Merritt, which was later evacuated when the sewage system failed. They were then transferred to Kamloops, where, according to Lampreau, many were told to wait in the hockey arena.
He said some indigenous peoples waited for hours – and at worst days – in their cars without food or help.
Nearly two weeks after the floods caused by the rain destroyed the lands of the Nicola River in southern BC, Lampreau says no one from the provincial government has contacted him.
“I ordered Emergency Management BC (EMBC) to hack the sand because they didn’t like our people – we fell through the cracks,” he said.
The chief flew over Nicola Valley on Wednesday to look at the losses and described in a video call he saw on Thursday from the office of his band Merritt, where he and delegates were coordinating emergency relief.
He said the rows of telephone poles had been cut off and heavy steel bridges “threw like toothpicks,” while water had swallowed some homes and the river “swept.”
“Now there are only rocks and a river. There is no more land between those rocks and the river,” he said.
He stopped and wiped his eyes.
“I have elders ask me every day …” Chief, do you think we’ll come home? “I’m afraid I’ll lose their elders when we’re away. They won’t come to see their homeland. “It’s gone.”
“It’s heartbreaking. I have a hard time sleeping at night,” Lampreau said.
Highway 8 zone “seemed incredible”
At a public daily news conference today, Secretary of Public Safety Mike Farnworth says Emergency Management BC is focusing on helping people who have been driven from properties along Highway 8.
“That particular highway seemed amazing,” Farnworth said.
He said the military will help drop off food and supplies on helicopters and assess highway safety.
He also said the province is working with the federal government to find out what disaster relief is available, especially for farmers and stockbreeders who have lost everything in flooded areas.
Local Government Minister Josie Osborne also said the county can expect more catastrophic events in the future, no one expects municipalities to handle reconstruction alone.
The CBC has contacted the EMBC and the province for further comments.