About 1,200 people in the northern Ontario community of Kashechewan are leaving for higher ground as an ice jam raises water levels on the Albany River near the low-lying First Nation.
Over the weekend about 600 people were flown out of Kashechewan, and hundreds more today are boarding military planes headed to several different Ontario communities, including Thunder Bay, Greenstone, Kapuskasing and Cornwall.
Ruby Wesley landed in Thunder Bay with her family.
“I was very glad to get out of the community because I have small ones that are with me and I was very afraid for them,” she said.
No one at the band office could be reached for comment, but community members said sewer backups have flooded the basements of about 40 homes. The nursing station has also been affected.
“There is water that has gone into the community itself and it is affecting critical infrastructure such as sewer systems,” said Andrew Morrison, a spokesman with Emergency Management Ontario, which is assisting with the evacuation.
The First Nation also continues to work with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to manage the situation and pay close attention to the Albany, Attawapiskat and Moose rivers.
Community leaders in Kashechewan declared a state of emergency on the weekend. Last week, some residents were forced from their homes and moved to communities farther south, but were allowed to return as the flooding seemed to abate.
Rising water, however, prompted the expanded evacuation.
Kashechewan has a history of spring flooding, but federal plans to move the community off the flood plain fell through several years ago.
Charlie Angus, MP for Timmins-James Bay, told CBC News that "year after year, the community suffers damage and deep trauma from the spring flooding."
"Last year, 40 homes were badly damaged because the sewage infrastructure failed as the water rose," Angus wrote in an email. "Those 40 homes are again filled with sewage."
He added that efforts to secure the dike seem to have failed.
"This is a community sitting on the wrong location."
In the meantime, the Canadian Red Cross is mobilizing additional resources to support evacuations from Kashechewan.
"The Canadian Red Cross has been working closely with officials to provide support as the flooding situation along the James Bay coast evolves," said Louise Geoffrion, provincial director of disaster management with the Canadian Red Cross, in a press release Monday.
"We are now readying personnel and supplies to support evacuees who will be hosted in Kapuskasing and the NAV Centre in Cornwall."