Security hired to protect tornado-hit Manitoba region from looters

Security officers have been hired to watch for looters at a Manitoba campground hit by a tornado last week.

'I've gone through a lot in my life but this is something different, I'll tell you. It's tough,' says reeve

Stan Asham, reeve of the rural municipality of Alonsa, said there have been reports of people attempting to take things from the tornado-struck area around Margaret Bruce Beach. (CBC)

Security officers have been hired to watch for looters at a Manitoba campground hit by a tornado last week.

The two officers started patrols Wednesday night, hours after councillors in the rural municipality of Alonsa voted to bring them in, said Reeve Stan Asham.

Many people who had trailers and campers at Margaret Bruce Beach fled the area before the tornado touched down Friday night, while others have not been able to get there since the storm to check on damages.

Barricades have been put up along the main roads heading into the beach and campground area. People are allowed in to check on their belongings but the roadblocks aren't the answer to looters, Asham said.

Debris litters the shore of Lake Manitoba at Margaret Bruce Beach and Campground on Monday. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

"It's quads they have to be concerned about. Quads don't need the main roads to get in there," he said, adding there have already been reports of possible looters but he doesn't believe they took anything.

"They've come around but there are still people around there. Not everyone is gone, so they're keeping an eye out and [looters] are run off pretty quick," he said. "But yes, there have been instances."

RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre confirmed there have been reports and said police were called about people in the area on four quads. Officers responded but did not locate any of the vehicles.

"We have received several reports of suspicious people in the area over the last few days, some on foot, others on ATVs," he said, but no one has been arrested.

"Officers are conducting regular patrols to ensure the area and properties are secure and continue to provide any assistance required as local residents attempt to clean up."

The twister roared through the rural municipality, roughly 165 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, for at least 20 minutes and left behind a 6½-kilometre path of destruction as wide as 800 metres.

Debris was thrown across a wide area of the campground, and into Lake Manitoba off the beach. It also destroyed some homes, cabins, barns and sheds in the rural municipality.

'It's been hard'

One man, 77-year-old Jack Furrie, died when his farmhouse was levelled.

Asham knew Furrie for more than 60 years; he was even part of Asham's wedding party in 1967.

"I've gone through a lot in my life but this is something different, I'll tell you. It's tough," said Asham, who saw Furrie the day before the tornado.

Jack Furrie, 77, was killed in the tornado on Friday night. (Submitted by Kelly Brown)

"It's been hard, but I'm keeping busy with so much happening around here."

Furrie, who lived alone, had a landline and cellphone but family members have said the latter no longer worked after BellMTS did upgrades to two cell towers in nearby Ebb and Flow and Amaranth, Man., earlier this summer. Many community residents have said the changes left them with little to no cellphone service at home.

The ground at Jack Furrie's property in Alonsa is strewn with debris on Monday. (Submitted by Kelly Brown)

That also meant many of them did not receive the alert from the national warning system.

Asham said there are a number of large water pipes near the corner of Furrie's property and had Furrie been able to get inside one of them, he might have survived. His dog survived, and people believe that's where it went, Asham said.

"There's always a lot of 'ifs' after something like this, you know. If only he had been able to do that."

Praise for volunteers

Asham heaped praise on all of the volunteers who have come out to help the communities in the rural municipality.

More than a dozen volunteers from Manitoba and Ontario, including a group of about 20 with Christian Aid Ministries, have been helping residents and campers around the area.

RCMP say Furrie's body was found outside of his home, which was destroyed by the tornado. (CBC)

They have been donating time and, in some cases, equipment from their own businesses to help the cleanup effort.

Volunteers have also offered shelter and food, Asham said.

"It sure makes a person see there's still a lot of good people out there."

Tow trucks hauling damaged vehicles

Manitoba Public Insurance said it is taking steps to make things easier for those in the tornado-struck region to report vehicle damage claims.

People are encouraged to call 1-800-665-2410 (toll-free) to make reports while a team of adjusters has been dedicated to processing claims for people from the affected areas on a priority basis.

Tow truck companies have also been dispatched to the area to remove damaged vehicles from the water and beach as part of the cleanup efforts.

Towing of other non-drivable vehicles from private properties can be arranged when reporting claims to MPI, a news release from the Crown corporation said.

MPI vehicle damage estimators will also be in the area on Thursday and Friday to identify damaged vehicles and prepare initial damage estimates on site.

About the Author

Darren Bernhardt

Reporter/Editor

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories and features. Story idea? Email darren.bernhardt@cbc.ca