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Flood freezes solid in Canada

Hundreds of residents are still unable to return home 3 weeks later.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | BADGER, NEWFOUNDLAND | March 7, 2003


"We're looking at recovery being a major undertaking."

—Jim Ferguson, Salvation Army


Nearly all of this small town, was submerged by floodwaters in mid-February, but before the water could drain away, a cold snap froze it solid.

"What you will see is cars, trucks and houses embedded in a sea of ice," said Jim Ferguson, the Salvation Army's territorial disaster coordinator for Canada and Bermuda. "We're looking at recovery being a major undertaking."

The flooding occurred when an ice-flow clogged up three rivers near the small town of 1,200. The backed-up water swirled through the streets, as deep as eight feet in some areas.

Three weeks after the disaster, many residents still cannot get anywhere near their homes. Moreover, disaster responders have not made a complete assessment of the situation, Ferguson said, because the ice that covers the town is not safe to walk on.

About 200 people are still living in the Old Carmelite Home, an abandoned nursing home not far from Badger.

"It had been mothballed," Ferguson said, "but now it's running full-tilt."

Major Roy Bridges, who runs the Salvation Army operation at the old nursing home, said displaced residents have been provided with all the necessities, as well as some extras, such as new hockey tickets for fans who missed games because of the flood.

Disaster responders have been working to keep the spirits up for the townspeople. Bridges said the Salvation Army has brought in entertainers, and the townspeople themselves organized a talent show that was well-attended.

"It's kind of incredible, when you realize what they've been through, how positive they've been," Bridges said.

Other displaced residents have stayed in two Pentecostal churches in nearby Grand Falls-Winsdor, a town about a 20 minute drive away, said the Rev. Marvin Burton, pastor of the Evangel Pentecostal Tabernacle.

Burton said about a dozen people are currently in residence at his church, down from the 60 who were originally there in the days after the flood.

The Windsor Pentecostal Church, which once housed about 70 people, now has about a dozen people left as well.

Burton thinks that both churches will empty out by the weekend, as more and more residents are permitted to return to homes on the perimeter of the flood area. About 90 homes have been reopened since the flooding three weeks ago.

"They've had floods in the past, but talking to the residents, we have heard this is the worst they've ever had," Burton said.

But at the Old Carmelite Home, Bridges is unsure when the 200 people there will be able to go home. Some of them will never have a homecoming, he said, because their houses were totally destroyed. The rest, however, may have to wait until the spring thaw.


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