Long Plain gets green light to start rebuilding, chief says
Red Cross says 30 homes are uninhabitable, and 146 evacuees are staying in a hotel in Portage La Prairie
Chief Dennis Meeches told evacuees at a town hall meeting in Long Plain First Nation Thursday the insurance company has given him the go ahead to start rebuilding the community's damaged homes.
The chief said repairs to the homes damaged by a tornado two weeks ago will start right away.
He said he's hoping to get some families back in their homes within the next month, but for others, it could still take up to six months.
"My home is pretty damaged, pretty good. The roof is missing, and all my clothes… the furniture, and all of my children's clothes [have all gone] to waste, and we have nothing left of it," said Aprille Catcheway who is one of 146 evacuees staying at a hotel in Portage la Prairie.
Red Cross says 30 homes are uninhabitable.
Catcheway, her husband and their seven kids are all squeezed into one hotel room, sharing a double bed and a pull-out couch.
"She's fussing and same with the other children," said Catcheway.
"It's kind of hard staying in a room with seven kids."
Meeches said that the number of evacuees has been fluctuating because some families are choosing to return home despite warnings not to.
Others are leaving the community in recent days because their houses are too damaged.
'Could be a few months, could be a few weeks'
Spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross, Jason Small, said it's still not clear how long it will take for everyone to return to Long Plain.
"We don't know at this point how many people will be out of their homes longer. It could be a few months, could be a few weeks," he said.
In the meantime, the Red Cross is working with the First Nation and the federal government to sort out a longer term recovery plan, and will continue to provide housing for evacuees.
"A lot of people are still on edge," said Meeches.
"All my kids think of...when they see a storm is…'a tornado is coming,'" She said.
"That's what comes to their minds right away when they see [a] storm or rain or dark clouds."
Thinking back on the day the tornado struck her own community, she remembers how frightened she was.
"I thought that would be the last day that I would see my children with me," she said.
Catcheway remembers how she gathered her kids into their cellar, and they started praying.
Even still, she fears for the safety of her children.
"I'm just kind of stressed," she said.
"When I see a storm, that's all I could think… You've got to watch out for a tornado or hail, because I'm scared for my children to be hurt and my family."
Thursday's town hall meeting included a presentation by the Red Cross on emergency preparedness to ensure that the community knows what to do when they learn that a storm is coming.
"A lot of people went through a very traumatic experience, so we're just advising that there are resources that you can take for your safety, for your family's safety, just precautionary measures," Meeches said.
For Catcheway, her main focus is getting her family back home.
"I'm hoping to be in my house soon," she said.
"The stay is quite long for me and my children. I'm hoping they get to it right away, as soon as they could."