Fort McMurray flood: Resident support ramps up as cleanup looms

Click to play video: 'Fort McMurray residents return after flooding'
Fort McMurray residents return after flooding
WATCH: Fort McMurray residents return after flooding – May 2, 2020

As flood evacuation orders are lifted in Fort McMurray and residents are being permitted to return home, many people now face a massive cleanup job.

“Nobody in my immediate family or friends has been hurt or has lost anything intimate in that sense, so it’s just stuff,” said Karl Behrisch, whose basement was completely destroyed in the flood.

A shot of Karl Behrisch’s flooded basement in Fort McMurray. Breanna Karstens-Smith

The Lower Townsite neighbourhood where Behrisch’s home is located had its evacuation order lifted Friday, along with every other neighbourhood except Draper.

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Click to play video: 'Fort McMurray beings to clean up as flood waters recede'
Fort McMurray beings to clean up as flood waters recede

Canadian Red Cross is offering assistance for those returning to their homes. The organization has been in the community working with residents since the 2016 wildfires.

“We are working with 200 families still from the wildfires of 2016, [and] the anniversary [of the fire] is on Sunday for four years,” Jenn McManus, the vice-president of Canadian Red Cross, said.
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“So this is definitely going to be a [psychological], social, mental health challenge in this community.”

Click to play video: 'Fort McMurray flood raises risk of COVID-19 infections'
Fort McMurray flood raises risk of COVID-19 infections

Due to COVID-19, Red Cross is working to virtually register those who need help instead of an in-person system. Both of its offices in the city have been impacted by the flooding.

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The situation with the pandemic will also affect how neighbours can help one another. Experts say it is crucial that proper protective wear is used if you are helping someone outside of your household.

Superstore donates food

On Saturday, the Superstore in Fort McMurray’s downtown donated all of its extra produce and perishables to the Wood Buffalo Food Bank.

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The Superstore has been closed throughout the flooding but has not lost power and was not damaged.

Since there was concern the food would go bad before the store could reopen safely, it decided to put it towards a good cause.

“It’s just so amazing that in these times, [Superstore is] trying to find ways still to not throw stuff out,” Dan Edwards, the executive director of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, said.

“No one likes walking by a grocery store and seeing the dumpster full of fresh food that could have gone somewhere.”

Edwards said the food bank was damaged by the flooding. He said he hopes to have a temporary emergency location up and running by Monday morning.

“I was granted some access to the building. There is significant damage,” he said. “It’s pretty devastating.”

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Emergency housing extended

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said Saturday that emergency housing through the Red Cross would be extended until May 10.

“Ensuring the safety of residents affected by the flood continues to be our top priority,” said Mayor Don Scott in a news release.

“This includes making sure that those whose homes aren’t safe to occupy continue to have a place to sleep.”​

If you have urgent flood-related housing needs, the RMWB advised people to contact the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582.

–With files from Heather Yourex-West and Breanna Karstens-Smith, Global News

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