Nahanni Butte, N.W.T, almost entirely flooded

The community of Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., is almost completely flooded, and reality is setting in for residents who might not be able to return to their homes for weeks.

The community of Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., is almost completely flooded, and reality is setting in for its residents.

Most have been taking shelter in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., since they evacuated their homes Saturday due to rising water levels.

The community's arbour, which is used for gatherings, is almost fully submerged and its airstrip is completely under water.

Wilbert Antoine from Fort Simpson flew over the community Tuesday evening.

"What I saw was total devastation. Everything was under water. There were only a few houses that were on higher ground. I was just totally awestruck and I was deeply saddened," he said.

It's difficult to know if the water level is still rising because the Water Survey of Canada doesn't have gauges near the community devices used to track water levels. However, they do have gauges at Fort Liard, N.W.T., and by Virginia Falls on the Nahanni River.

Water levels at Fort Liard are dropping, but rain is forecast for Nahanni Butte for the next week.

In the community of approximately 115 people, about 15 residents stayed behind to look after animals and care for their houses. The territorial government says it has stayed in close contact with them, and are prepared to evacuate their homes at a moment’s notice.  

Many residents are staying with friends and family. About 30 evacuees are staying in an emergency shelter in Fort Simpson, and are thankful for the help.

"They treat us really good here. They give us everything we need – a place to put our head, food to eat," said Archie Betsaka.

There is no word on when the rest of the community members will be able to return home.

Nahanni Butte Chief Fred Tesou said it could be weeks before they're back in the community.