Shamattawa declares state of emergency after fire destroys only grocery store, band office
Chief hopes to set up a temporary food store Friday with help from North West Company
A remote Manitoba First Nation has declared a state of emergency after a fire destroyed the community's only grocery store along with its band office Thursday, said Shamattawa Chief Jeffrey Napaokesik.
Napaokesik called it a "total loss."
"If we don't have supplies tomorrow there [is] going to be in a panic. It's an emergency right now."
The chief said he is working with the manager of the community's destroyed Northern Store, owned by the North West Company, to create an emergency food store at the reserve's community centre Friday morning.
"He's already contacted his higher-ups, they're coming first thing, at about 9:30 a.m. tomorrow," said Napaokesik.
"I assume they're going to bring in shelving and goods...as soon as possible," he said.
There is no road access to Shamattawa. All food must be flown into the isolated community about 745 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
The chief said he has spoken to officials with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in Winnipeg about the situation and they have offered assistance as well.
"They're going to assist as much as they can with everything that's happened — with our store and with our band office," he said.
Fire started during funeral
Nearly everyone in Shamattawa was attending a community funeral Thursday afternoon when the fire started around 2:30 p.m., Napaokesik said.
By the time Shamattawa's fire department arrived on scene, smoke was already billowing out of band office windows and the building was unsafe to enter. All firefighters could do was try to save the Northern Store next door, but that proved impossible as well, said Napaokesik.
The community's radio station and emergency call centre were also destroyed Thursday when the band office caught fire, along with Shamattawa's community internet towers.
As a result, Napaokesik said he's been going door-to-door to check on and speak with Shamattawa's approximately 1,500 residents.
"I've got no way to spread the word," he said.
The chief plans to set up a temporary band office in the coming days and re-route all calls to his office through the community's only school.
Shamattawa was under a boil-water advisory earlier this summer but the chief said the water is currently safe to drink. They will be receiving emergency bottled water in case that changes.
RCMP are still investigating the cause of Thursday's fire, said Napaokesik.
In 2015 Shamattawa was hit with a suicide crisis when four young people took their lives in just six weeks.
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