TORONTO, May 9
A severe threat of flooding has prompted the leaders of Attawapiskat to arrange for the airlift of at-risk residents.
The breakup of the Attawapiskat River is creating ice jams that could pose significant risks of flooding in the community, located on the James Bay coast, 500 kilometres north of Timmins. As a result, local leaders have declared a state of emergency, following discussions with provincial and federal officials.
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR)
(http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/index.html) is coordinating flight operations to ensure the quick and safe departure of the evacuees. Today, some of the 300 most vulnerable residents of the community: the sick, elderly, infants and those with special needs, will begin to be flown out to safety.
Local leaders, MNR and Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) (http://www.emergencymanagementontario.ca/english/home.html) officials are monitoring the ice breakup near Attawapiskat to determine if a broader evacuation should begin soon. As a precaution, 12 residents who were receiving medical care at the local clinic had already been airlifted by air ambulance to facilities across northern Ontario two weeks ago.
MNR and EMO officials are currently working to ensure the successful evacuation of Attawapiskat and the hosting of its residents in communities across the north. Distances, weather conditions, the availability of aircraft and the capacity of host municipalities, are the main factors considered by provincial planners.
"Our first priority is the safety of Attawapiskat residents," said Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Rick Bartolucci (http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about_min/bio.html). "We have to begin evacuating the most vulnerable members of the community now, before flooding occurs, because once it does, it might be more difficult to conduct an evacuation."
"The experts in my ministry's aviation services are playing a key role in the efforts to ensure the safety of a coastal community," said Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield
"They are working closely with local leaders to ensure the orderly and safe departure of Attawapiskat residents."
- Today's planned airlift will bring up to 220 vulnerable residents of Attawapiskat to Kapuskasing and MNR officials are looking for more aircraft to increase that number.
- More than 1,400 Attawapiskat residents could be airlifted out of the community over the next few days if necessary.
- All of the 1,433 residents of Fort Albany and Kashechewan, who had been airlifted from these two coastal communities since April 25th, are now back home.
Current state of flooding throughout the province. (http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/EmergencyManagement/2ColumnSubPage/239496.html)
Prepare for possible flooding.
How to put together an emergency survival kit.
For further information: Laura Blondeau, Minister's Office, (416) 325-4973; Patrice Cloutier, Communications Branch, (416) 326-9195