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‘It did not have to be this way’: Growing anger over Merritt, B.C. evacuations

Click to play video: 'Anger grows over Merritt evacuations' Anger grows over Merritt evacuations
Some residents of Merritt are voicing frustration that people in the area hardest hit by flooding are still not allowed back home to mitigate the damage. Jules Knox reports. – Nov 27, 2021

Hundreds more Merritt, B.C., residents were allowed to return to their properties on Saturday to assess the damage to their homes, but there is growing anger that some people have still not been allowed back.

Property owners in the area that was hardest hit have still not been allowed to view their properties or mitigate their damages.

Local resident Lynnette Gillingwater doesn’t understand why authorities aren’t allowing residents back during daytime hours so they can start dealing with their properties.

Read more: Flood-ravaged Merritt, B.C. to begin second phase of re-entry this weekend

“I’m angry for every single resident here because it did not have to be this way. It did not,” she said.

Muddy homes are now turning musty and mouldy, she said.

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She believes allowing residents back sooner could have helped prevent some of the damage.

“We should not be locked out of our city,” Gillingwater said.

Read more: Merritt Mountie making connections with displaced pets and their owners

She has stayed behind and been working in an area that is now known as Phase 4, where access is technically forbidden.

“I try and muck out basements, and I try and get people’s things, and I try and get as much done as I can do in a day,” she said.

“And then I go home, and I clean all my mom’s stuff. I sit there and try to lay out papers and photo albums and try to salvage my childhood, (my mom’s) life, my daughter’s life.”

Gillingwater believes that with proper safety protection, residents could return home or at least hire crews to start working on their properties.

“It breaks my heart because I try to save as much as I can, and I can’t because I’m one person and there should be a lot of other residents here to help these people.”

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Merritt’s emergency operations centre said people in the hardest-hit area still aren’t allowed back because of issues with water and wastewater as well as emergency services.

“Right now part of what’s stopping us is that some of these roads are impassable. The fire trucks don’t have access to water. The ambulance doesn’t have access,” emergency operations centre spokesperson Allen Stebbing said.

“We’re doing this not because we want to keep people out, we are doing this because we want to make sure that we keep people safe.”

While many fled the floods, others ignored the evacuation order, and they’ve now been living for nearly two weeks without water or sewer.

“We were not flooded out, so we don’t want to burden emergency services even more,” said resident Debra Moran.

Stebbing said there is no firm date for when residents of Phase 4 will be allowed home.

Residents living in Phase 2 are allowed home overnight but remain on alert, while residents in Phase 3 only have day access to their properties.

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