‘More needs to be done’: Frustration in Merritt over lack of flood preparations

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Frustration in Merritt over lack of flood warning
WATCH: Some residents of Merritt say flood damage is worse than expected because they were told by officials that their community wasn't at risk. Geoff Hastings reports – May 14, 2018

Dozens of Merritt families are on edge after being told they could be forced out of their homes if water levels keep rising.

A crowd of mostly volunteers is scrambling to fill sandbags and protect homes from the rising water.

Around the community, a seniors complex needed to be evacuated, a bridge has been closed and a number of streets are flooded.

Some residents are angry with city officials, accusing them of downplaying the danger and leaving the community unprepared.

“It is frustrating because there are so many people whose homes are at risk,” resident Erin Wiebe said.

“They need to protect their homes and they’re doing the best they can, but more needs to be done.”

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They say it’s left them feeling like they are their own last line of defence.

“We’ve been working from daylight ’til dark for the last five days non-stop. They keep saying it’s peaked and it just keeps coming up more,” resident Rory Hepner said.

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“It’s like trying to sandbag a tsunami,” Merritt chief administrative officer Shawn Boven said.

The Nicola River is rapidly rising although it hasn’t overtopped the dam at the end of Nicola Lake yet.

As evacuation orders are in effect, a few provincial firefighters have been brought in to help.

“We’re helping by making sand and sandbags available, providing media releases, letting you know to the best of our knowledge what’s coming,” Boven said.

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Some residents believe that the city is standing in the way of those trying to help themselves.

Full coverage of B.C. flooding

They claim they risk arrest by driving sandbags into the evacuation zone, although walking the sandbags across is OK.

“We have to get sandbags on this side, transfer them into the truck on this side, take them into our property,” resident Greg Johnson said. “We never had any help.”

There are also claims the city is acting too late.

“He could have had sump pumps there before but nobody was told the water was going to be coming up to this height,” resident Sam Roline said.

“We just simply don’t have the resources to protect private property, and private property owners are encouraged and expected to defend their residence,” Boven said.

It’s already bad and with temperatures well above normal across much of B.C.’s Interior, there are fears things will get worse before they get better.

“There are a lot of angry residents right now, Boven said. “I feel bad for them and I wish them the best and I know we’re all going through this as a community.”


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