Dozens of volunteers were on the ground in Merritt on Sunday conducting a damage assessment of homes in the flood-ravaged community.
An estimated 7,000 residents were evacuated from the city, some due to flooding, and others because the city’s drinking and wastewater systems were rendered inoperable by the flood.
“The south of the city looks different from how you last saw it. Streets have been damaged. The Middlesborough Bridge has collapsed. The river has been re-routed. And unfortunately homes and vehicles have been destroyed,” Mayor Linda Brown said in a Saturday evening video update.
Volunteers worked as quickly as possible Saturday to assess the safety of homes according to a colour-coded system, she said.
Once the city has been deemed safe, residents of “green” coded homes will be granted access to their properties, while residents of “yellow” coded homes will get instructions on next steps.
“Those owners of ‘red’ properties will unfortunately likely remain evacuated for an extended period of time. When you come home, Merritt will not look how it did when you left,” she said.
Emergency planners with the city are working on a plan to rescind evacuation orders for parts of the city not directly hit by floodwaters, Brown said.
That can’t happen until the city’s water systems are brought back online.
Brown said crews were still working to remove debris from Merritt’s sewage pipes, as well as flushing and inspecting the drinking water system. Once that process is complete, drinking water will be tested, a process that takes at least 24 hours.
She did not provide a timeline for those efforts, but said they remained on schedule.
The city has also set up a flood information line for evacuees, Brown said.
Earlier this week, some evacuees vented frustration with a lack of information and communication, and long delays in accessing emergency supports and funding.
On Saturday, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth acknowledged those frustrations, and said the province was working to clear backlogs and expedite emergency support.
“For those who have been waiting, we will be reimbursing accommodation costs for those who are eligible,” he said. “The process for that reimbursement is being worked through right now.”
Merritt has been declared eligible for provincial disaster financial assistance. Residents can find more information on how to apply at the City of Merritt website.