Residents of Churchill, Man. are fearing the worst after rail service to the small town was suspended indefinitely.
An announcement was made on Friday that “catastrophic” flooding had severely damaged the Hudson Bay Railway line and repairs would require it to be closed for months by rail line owner Omnitrax Inc.
With the only ground transportation to Churchill out of service, business owners are concerned about the summer tourism season and the shipment of important goods.
ABOVE: Viewer video shows serious flooding near Churchill, Man.
“If there’s no tours than nobody’s buying anything,” said Rhoda DeMeulles, owner of the hardware store called Churchill Home Building Centre.
“With the lack of materials and no customers for the north … I think we’re going to have to put it down to zero staff,” said the business’ other owner Dale DeMeulles.
Summer tourism has become a boon for Churchill. Via Rail estimates more than 2,700 people travel there by train between June and August.
Those people will now have to choose between cancelling their trip or buying a much more expensive plane ticket to get to the town.
“I don’t know how many more blows Churchill can take with transportation getting up here. The people are just going to start saying ‘it’s too hard to get there’,” said John Hrominchuk, owner of two of Churchill’s hotels.
The provincial Emergency Measures Organization is still assessing what can be done to move important goods to the community like fuel, propane and food.
“Looking at the amount of goods and materials and services that you need to sustain there isn’t something you can figure out over a weekend without getting the ground truth from the folks in Churchill,” said Mike Gagne, with Manitoba EMO.
Increasing the number of shipments through Hudson Bay is currently being looked at as an option.
A meeting is being held in Churchill Monday evening to find a long term solution to the rail line closure.