THUNDER BAY -- The city has reached its capacity in the number of evacuees it can host from the flood-stricken Kashechewan First Nation.
Thunder Bay Fire Rescue chief John Hay on Monday said 595 Kashechewan residents were airlifted to the city over the course of the weekend, with 13 flights landing at the Thunder Bay International Airport.
“We’re full,” Hay said.
Stage 1 evacuees include children, the elderly as well as those with medical conditions. The city was chosen to host that stage of evacuees due to amenities such as the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre as well as other emergency services.
The timeline for residents to return home is still unknown as the Albany River continues to swell. The community is currently in the process of being completely evacuated.
Hay said the latest reports out of the James Bay area community detail fluctuating water levels in the Albany River, ranging from two to four feet at a time.
“They’re still having some issues with the ice and the water and the weather is not really going to be great up there for the next couple of days with some rain and snow,” Hay said.
The Canadian Red Cross has played a vital role in coordinating assistance throughout the evacuation effort.
The organization set up registration with the displaced residents upon landing to set up an inquiry line in order to allow friends and family to track where people were staying. They are also providing personal care items to help make the relocation more comfortable.
Emergency response team leader Sharon Bak said many of the evacuees have stayed in the city before, which is making the transition a little easier.
“It is definitely hard for them to be away from home but they’re adjusting really well,” Bak said. “They’re extremely friendly and working really well with us so we can provide the needs they’re looking for.”
She estimates that close to 25 volunteers have been working with the evacuees since they first arrived Saturday evening.
Mayor Keith Hobbs said the city is not on the hook for the cost of the evacuation.
“It is full cost recovery for the City of Thunder Bay,” Hobbs said. “We’ve signed an agreement with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and we always make sure those agreements are in place prior to agreeing to take evacuees in, whether it be a fire or flood.”
Hobbs added there are extra police and emergency response crews on staff, just in case any issues should arise.
The remaining 260 residents in Kashechewan are being arranged to be evacuated to Kapuskasing, Timmins, Ottawa and Cornwall over the next day or two. Greenstone also received a number of evacuees over the weekend.
A statement issued by Public Safety Canada says three Royal Canadian Air Force C-130 aircraft are aiding in the evacuation of approximately 1,500 people from the community.