A flood victim in Texas is speaking out after receiving help from the most unlikely of places during the most desperate of times after Harvey hit her community.
Keesha Hayward, of Beaumont, Texas, says she is incredibly grateful for the help she received from a Beaumont, Alta. man in the wake of the storm.
“He’s like a guardian angel,” Hayward said of Shiva Shunmugam on Sunday. “He’s a hero.”
On Tuesday, Hayward’s mother – who lives in Arlington, Texas – tried to contact emergency services in Beaumont to get help for her daughter and four grandchildren who were without food or proper sanitation.
“All the main corners of my house started filling up with water,” Hayward explained on Sunday. “It was kind of scary because my kids were in their bedrooms like, ‘Oh my gosh mom, it’s water!'”
But Hayward’s mother accidentally contacted Beaumont, Alta., not Texas. Shunmugam, who works as a communications coordinator for the Town of Beaumont, 30 kilometres south of Edmonton, jumped into action anyway.
“It said, ‘Terrell houses are flooded and need help,’ Shunmugam said of the message he received from Hayward’s mother. “That was it. I kicked into action mode and I knew this was a cry for help from Beaumont, Texas.”
Watch below: When Harvey hit Texas in August 2017, a mother from Beaumont, Texas received a little help from an unlikely place…Alberta.
He got in touch with emergency officials in Texas before calling Hayward to provide advice on what to do and also to offer moral support as she struggled to cope with the situation.
“We were really, really scared,” she said on Sunday.
“My kids started crying. My nine-year-old stated she didn’t want to die. It got really serious there.”
According to Hayward, when she called 911 to try and arrange for her family to be rescued, the operator told her all of Beaumont was so flooded that they wouldn’t be able to send someone to get her and her kids right away. She said she was worried she and her children would have to swim to safety and so she panicked and decided to try and drive out of Beaumont.
Shunmugam reached Hayward while she was driving and pleaded with her to pull over to the highest ground possible and not to drive any further because Texas officials told him it was too dangerous.
“‘I want you to live, I want you and those children safe,'” Hayward said is what Shunmugam told her. “‘Please listen to me Keesha, please.’ I said, OK, I’ll listen.'”
When firefighters eventually showed up to Hayward’s home to rescue her on Wednesday, they found an empty house because they hadn’t known she’d already left.
At that point, emergency services in Texas spoke to Shunmugam, who directed them to where Hayward was and they provided her an escort to the rescue centre.
The rescue centre in Beaumont since flooded as well, forcing Hayward and her children to seek refuge in Dallas.
“Here at the shelter, they’re doing everything they can to try to help us: shelter us, get us on our feet,” she said. “They’re gonna approve me for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), they approved me to get a nice hotel room for 30 days.”
Hayward said she left her home with nothing but clothing for her children and that the disaster has taught her to be more prepared in case of an emergency.
“Instead of just automatically assuming the natural disaster can’t happen to you, be prepared.”
Hayward said she’ll never forget that a stranger from far away took the initiative to help hwer in her time of need.
“Shiva taught me a lesson,” she said. “We take for granted the people that are around us… that we generally love… we know that they’ll help us.
“When I found someone that was clean across the world that helped me out of a… life-threatening situation… it was wonderful.”
“I’m extremely happy that my actions did make a difference for a few people there,” Shunmugam said.
To donate to the Red Cross’ Harvey relief efforts, click here.
-With files from Sarah Kraus
Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ ongoing coverage of flooding in Texas in August 2017.