Sudbury

Kashechewan to start evacuation early amid flood concerns

The youngest and oldest people in the remote northern Ontario community of Kashechewan will be moved out of the area starting today amid concerns about flooding.

Threat of flooding from ice-clogged Albany River a perennial problem in northern Ontario community

Threat of flooding from ice-clogged Albany River a perennial problem in northern Ontario community 2:20

The youngest and oldest people in the remote northern Ontario community of Kashechewan will be moved out of the area starting today amid concerns about flooding.

An evacuation was initially planned for next Monday, but officials have decided to start the effort to move about 600 vulnerable residents out earlier because of concerns about damage to a dike meant to protect the community from the Albany River.

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus said Wednesday that aerial observers have reported a great deal of ice, "so there is a lot of concern that this could be a very big flooding year."

The residents leaving Kashechewan on Thursday will be flown to Smooth Rock Falls and Kapuskasing, said a spokesperson from Emergency Management Ontario.

This is the fourth straight year that Kashechewan, a community of nearly 2,000 on the shore of the Albany River, has had to move people because of flooding risks. More than 1,500 people were flown out of the community last spring alone.

Aboriginal Affairs says the cost of last year's evacuation stands at $21 million. That figure is still climbing, as roughly 400 of the people who were flown out last year are still living in Kapuskasing while work is done to repair their flood-damaged homes.

Kashechewan Chief Derek Stephen has called on Ottawa to help find a permanent solution to the annual flooding.

A statement from the office of the minister of aboriginal affairs said it has offered $1.1 million to Kashechewan to assist with repairs to the dike.

The nearby communities of Fort Albany and Attawapiskat are also monitoring for rising water levels and ice jams on the rivers of the James Bay Coast.

Those communities have not requested an evacuation at this time, Emergency Management Ontario said.

With files from CBC's Megan Thomas