A desperate Texas woman ended up receiving help from a stranger in Canada after she tried to call for emergency services amid the state’s flooding catastrophe on Wednesday.
The woman, from Arlington, Texas, was trying to reach emergency services in the flood-stricken city of Beaumont, Texas, seeking help for a daughter and four grandchildren who are caught up in the disaster.
She reached someone from Beaumont – but in Alberta, not in Texas.
Watch below: Videos from Global News’ ongoing coverage of Hurricane Harvey and the aftermath in Texas.
Shiva Shunmugam, the communications coordinator with the Town of Beaumont, about 30 kilometres south of Edmonton, noticed a “ping” on the municipality’s fire hall page – “a request by a citizen,” he said.
“I see that this person is mentioning a neighbourhood and something about flooding.”
He said the message described how entire homes were underwater and he realized the call was likely not from Beaumont, Alta., but rather Beaumont, Texas.
“I contacted her, taking it as a distress call because that might have been the only communication tool that she had available,” Shunmugam said.
He then contacted Beaumont, Texas fire officials on her behalf.
The official he spoke with gave him the phone number for the woman’s daughter, Keesha, and Shunmugam called her by phone.
According to him, she said they had no food, they had unplugged all their appliances and they were having sanitation issues.
“She was really happy to see we made more contact to her than the emergency services on field in Texas,” he said. “Which I’m sure is the capacity issues with the calamity that they are facing right now and I’m sure the Beaumont fire services in Texas is doing the best that they can.”
Shunmugam said he has continued to contact emergency services in Texas on Keesha’s behalf.
“We take communication seriously,” he said. “For us… it’s not an 8 to 5 job, and in situations like this, we want to provide them assistance and we want to provide them moral support as well.
“I definitely want to know… that they’re safe.”
Shunmugam said he wanted to keep helping even after he realized the woman was in Texas because “it’s the Canadian way.”
On Wednesday, Shunmugam told Global News he spoke with Keesha and found out she and her children had safely arrived at the Beaumont Civic Centre, where they were receiving food and other supplies from the Red Cross.
He said he was happy to hear she was safe after some tense moments Tuesday night, when Keesha decided to try and drive her kids to safety because no help was coming to her home.
“She broke down and mentioned that, ‘I was trying to man up and be bold for my kids yesterday and I didn’t want to show my fear to them and out of nowhere you called me… to reassure me,'” he said.
“It was very, very emotional for me, as well.”
Shunmugam said he contacted emergency services in Texas, who advised him driving on roads was not a good idea. He called Keesha to tell her to pull over at the highest ground possible as soon as she could.
As of later Wednesday afternoon, officials reported that at least 23 deaths had been linked to Harvey and that more than 13,000 people had been rescued in Houston and surrounding parts of southeast Texas.
Beaumont is one of the harder-hit areas of the flooding. On Tuesday afternoon, Beaumont police rescued a three-year-old girl who was found hanging on the body of her drowned mother in a flooded canal.
On Wednesday, Beaumont police have been asking people with boats to check neighbourhoods for people who need rescuing.
“A calamity like this can bring people closer and it’s being shown on many fronts. A lot of people are helping a lot of other people,” Shunmugam said on Wednesday.
-With files from The Canadian Press