Residents of Peguis First Nation were forced from their homes this weekend as the Fisher River encroached on their community, sending more than 1,000 residents to hotels in Winnipeg, Gimli and Selkirk until the water subsides.
Chief Glenn Hudson issued a mandatory evacuation order on Sunday after the river swelled due to ice jams. He said it’s one of the worst floods he’s ever seen in the community, roughly 150 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and something that came out of nowhere.
“(Forecasters) had originally indicated no or limited flooding in the area, but I guess with the added precipitation, we’re experiencing floods at historic rates,” Hudson said.
“When you have rain coupled with snow that has occurred over a two-day period, along with a breach of a dike system south of us, that has contributed to those water levels that we’ve never seen before.”
A statement posted to the First Nation’s Facebook pager later in the day Monday said overland flooding is happening after ice jams on the Fisher River drove up water levels.
In the neighbouring community of Fisher River Cree Nation, high-risk residents have been sent to hotels in neighbouring communities.
So far, Hudson said, the fate of some of the 480 or so homes affected by the water remains up in the air. The water levels, he said, appear to be higher than those in 2011 — the last time the community was evacuated.
“I know water has surrounded a lot of the homes and that’s something we need to assess as to whether they can be repaired or whether they’re lost completely.”
Hudson said he’s calling for immediate help from the federal government, and said flood strategies need to be part of a national commitment to addressing existing housing crises on First Nations.
Albert Stevenson’s parents were among Peguis residents sent to Winnipeg on the weekend, but he chose to stay in the community with his wife and daughter to try to protect their homes.
His house is on higher ground and so far hasn’t been affected.
“Right now we’re just checking sump pumps ? and pump the water out of the yards if we can,” he said by phone.
Stevenson said some who stayed behind are sandbagging homes that are not submerged.
“Waters have gone down a bit, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”
— with files from The Canadian Press