Fort Simpson and the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation are inviting Hay River evacuees to find sanctuary in their Dehcho community after this week’s devastating flood.
This time last year, Fort Simpson was the epicentre of flooding considered among the worst the territory had seen. This year, the village is so far unscathed but Hay River is witnessing unprecedented damage.
“We’d like to offer our community as an evacuation site,” said Mayor of Fort Simpson Sean Whelly, who said doing so was a joint initiative with the First Nation.
“If people want to make their way here to the ferry crossing, we’ll find a way to get them across with the helicopter and do what we can to accommodate them here.”
Whelly thinks the village can readily house 100 people. For information, call the village office at (867) 695-2253.
The mayor said the First Nation was using its quota of helicopter hours to ensure evacuees can get across the Liard River during breakup for free. Arena cots and a limited number of hotel rooms are currently available.
“We do have some ability to fund this because we still had some money from the United Way that was collected,” Whelly said, referring to last year’s fundraising drive for his own community.
“We just received $100,000 of leftover money from last year’s flood. We were blessed enough not to have had a flood here this year so, if it comes down to it, we’ll spend the whole $100,000 helping people from Hay River.”
The community has also begun collecting fans and other flood damage repair equipment used last year, ready to ship it to Hay River.
“We’ll get that over there for them as they start to do their clean-up,” he said. “It’s better it gets used.”
Fort Simpson has already declared an end to its own flood risk this season. Whelly acknowledged there was still scope for the water level to shift, but the village is confident the risk of a repeat of 2021 is over.