By Rob Smith
APTN National News
KINGCOME INLET, B.C.–Flooding forced a dramatic helicopter evacuation this weekend of about 100 people from a remote First Nations community in British Columbia.
The flooding was triggered by heavy rains Friday which pounded the ancient and remote Kingcome Inlet village that has been home to the Dwadaneuk people for thousands of years.
“It was so loud you couldn’t hear because of the rain,” said Beth Lagis.
The Kingcome River overflowed its banks on Saturday morning and water swept through the community, which lies on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
By the afternoon, 107 people had been taken by boat the local school which is the highest building in the area.
The RCMP and Indian Affairs’ emergency services coordinated the evacuation as six helicopters took turns airlifting people to Alert Bay, B.C., where they were provided with food and shelter.
But darkness arrived before rescuers could get everyone out of the school and 25 people spent the night surrounded by rushing water. Their refuge was turned into an island in the middle of a river.
“It’s devastating up there right now,” said Lagis, who was evacuated Sunday morning. “There’s a lot of loss, too much loss.”
Nineteen people remained in the community.
The flooding inflicted millions of dollars worth of damage on the community. At least 12 houses were severely damaged by water and those who lived there are now homeless.
“I was extremely sad I had to leave the village like that,” said Helen Willie, who believes her house has been destroyed by flooding. “We are so vulnerable.”
The community’s chairman Joy Willie said rebuilding will take a huge effort.
“People have lost everything they saved up for all their lives,” he said. “I can see us rebuilding for years to come.”