Fort Vermilion residents deal with extensive flood damage

Residents are cleaning up damage to hundreds of homes and businesses caused by floods in the northern Alberta hamlet of Fort Vermilion.

Mackenzie County will receive disaster relief funding from the province

The Canadian Rangers, part of the Canadian Armed Forces, provided help sandbagging essential buildings in Fort Vermilion and assisted with clean-up after the Peace River flooded the community. (Sergeant Tom Simpson/National Defence)

Residents are cleaning up damage caused by floods to hundreds of homes and businesses in the northern Alberta hamlet of Fort Vermilion.

More than 450 people were forced from their homes two weeks ago after an ice jam on the Peace River led to flooding in Mackenzie County, about 660 kilometres north of Edmonton.

The evacuation order in Mackenzie County was lifted Monday.

Many families were unable to return home due to the damage, said Fort Vermilion resident Valerie Clarke.

Her house was spared, but her ancestral family home where her sister now lives has been severely damaged, Clarke said.

"It was devastating. Even at this moment, I think a lot of people are still in a state of shock," she said. 

"People are just coming to terms with the magnitude of it all."

Sinkholes have appeared in the flooded areas, further complicating clean-up efforts.

A sinkhole marked with orange has been growing in size on Valerie Clarke's sister's property since the flood waters receded. (Supplied by Valerie Clarke)

"On my sister's property, the sinkhole went from two feet to six feet in a matter of 24 hours," said Clarke.

More than 120 buildings were severely damaged in the Fort Vermilion area, said Alberta's Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu on Friday. 

"Infrastructure has been damaged, homes have been destroyed," he said. "There is a long road to recovery that lies ahead."

Disaster relief 

The Alberta government will be providing $147 million to northern communities impacted by flooding through the disaster recovery program.

Evacuees from the Fort Vermilion and Fort McMurray areas have already received close to $8 million in emergency funds from the province. 

The damage could cost more than $45 million dollars, said Madu.

"We are still at the assessment stage, these are preliminary numbers. We do expect that number to change."

The county received help from the Canadian Rangers, who are part of Canadian Armed Forces Reserves from April 26 to May 5, said a statement from the National Defence. 

They provided assistance with the evacuation and helped with clean-up once residents were able to return.