Kashechewan evacuation continues in face of what chief calls 'horrible risk'

The most vulnerable people facing flooding in Kashechewan, Ont., are expected to be safely out of the First Nations community by the end of the day, as the chief warns that the dike there faces a "horrible risk" of collapse.

15 to 20 people will remain behind to keep an eye on the reserve and its precarious dike

The Albany River threatens the communities of Fort Albany and Kashechewan each spring. (Fort Albany Flood Watch/Facebook)

The most vulnerable people facing flooding in Kashechewan, Ont., are expected to be safely out of the First Nations community by the end of the day, as the chief warns that the dike there faces a "horrible risk" of collapse. 

Chief Derek Stephen says 600 people — seniors, families with children and people with disabilities — are the first to be moved from the town on the western shore of James Bay.

Three flights left Thursday carrying people to safety in Kapuskasing, about 325 kilometres to the southwest. Some evacuees are being moved to Smooth Rock Falls, just down the road from Kapuskasing.

All 1,900 residents will leave within the next week, although 15 to 20 people will remain behind to keep an eye on the community and its precarious dike, Stephen said.

He expects the flooding to begin in a week to a week and a half.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Kashechewan has had to be evacuated.

Chief pegs move to higher ground at $750M

Stephen says it's time to move the community to higher ground so it doesn't have to face this every spring when the ice thaws and river waters rise.

​"Hopefully, it's bound to happen sooner or later because we can't keep on spending $20 - 21 million each evacuation year to year. It just doesn't make any sense," he said.

Stephen predicts it would cost about $750 million to move Kashechewan to higher ground.

Gilles Bisson, the NDP MPP for Timmins-James Bay, agrees it's time to make a major change.

"Here we are, almost each and every year spending quite a bit of money to charter planes, rent hotel rooms, get food, move people, displace people, get them to these places like Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls and other places we're going to have to go," he said.

"We'd just be better off over the long run to move this community to higher ground and build the infrastructure that prevents this kind of thing from happening."

With files from The Canadian Press


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