Major floods hit western Canada

Faith-based organizations are planning response efforts in western Canada.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BALTIMORE | June 22, 2005


Faith-based organizations are planning response efforts in western Canada following one of the worst spring flood seasons in recent years.

According to the Government of Alberta, floods forced the evacuation of thousands of residents in a host of communities including Edmonton, Red Deer, Drayton Valley and Calgary. Counties with declared local emergencies include Red Deer, Mountainview, Clearwater, Starland, and the Siksika and Tsuu T'ina tribal nations.

Jay O'Neil, a spokesperson for the Government of Alberta, said the flooding has been off and on for the past two weeks, stretching from the Edmonton area all the way down to the province's southern border with the United States.

"We're moving into the recovery stage now," said O'Neil. "This affected a lot of communities and a lot of people."

Local governments are already starting up the first step in recovery, encouraging residents and businesses to contact their insurance companies to see what damage is covered. Government officials are also making sure residents document damages because the Canadian government may assist in funding as well.

The city and county of Red Deer are already recruiting volunteers to help clean up, as well as continuing to advise residents to conserve water due to the excessive water volume moving through the wastewater treatment plant. Thousands of residents of Red Deer County who lived within one mile of the Red Deer River and the Medicine River were evacuated from their homes last week.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) and Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS) are among faith-based organizations evaluating a response. CRWRC has two staff members following the situation in Alberta.

"They are on the ground and visiting the area," said Jacob Kramer, relief coordinator for the CRWRC's Canada office.

Kramer said the representatives are also spreading recovery news to their churches in the regions in order to start gearing up for the response. "They are organizing volunteers, we're just not sure yet where the volunteers will be sent," he explained.

Volunteers from MDS have already helped residents clean basements in the small town of Freeman.

Lois Nickel, administrative coordinator for the MDS Canada office, said MDS is working closely with the Red Cross to secure names of families who may not otherwise be able to find assistance. "Our main clients include the disabled, single-parent families, the elderly, and just folks that have a hard time getting help otherwise," Nickel explained.

She added that MDS representatives in Alberta are attending all government emergency management meetings. MDS also has a volunteer recruitment phone number activated and has put out the volunteer recruitment call to its churches in the region.


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