Over 100 people forced from homes as rivers rise on Opaskwayak Nation in Manitoba

Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais
APTN National News
More than 100 people have been forced to leave their homes on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba.

Rapidly rising water from two nearby rivers is expected to spill over the dyke that was built only a few years ago during the 2011 flood that hit most of Manitoba.

Evacuees have been staying in local hotels since Saturday with help from the Red Cross and band leadership.

In a phone interview with APTN, evacuee Veronica Prysiazniuk said, “We were surprised when they came at 2:30 and told us that we had to get out.”

Prysiazniuk has lived in her home on Braken Dam Road for 15 years and has never had to leave because of a spring flooding until now.

“Well it’s the first time that we’ve been evacuated, so we know things are pretty dire,” she said.

OCN is located about 600 kilometres north of Winnipeg and has 3,500 people living in the community. It’s where the nearby Carrot river flows into the North Saskatchewan river. Usually the dyke is enough during the spring, but OCN”s Chief Christian Sinclair is worried this year.

“The ice sheet itself has never stayed this long in the season, so what’s happening is because the ice is not breaking up, the waters are rising underneath,” said Sinclair.

He’s called on 90 volunteers to sandbag around the clock.

“Right now we’re just monitoring it every hour on the hour because we’re going into unprecedented times,” he said.

The Red Cross and OCN leadership will continue to help evacuees with food, lodging and supplies while home owners stand by and hope for the best.

“They’ve looked after all our needs, so we really don’t have any worries except stressing about what’s going to be happening in our homes,” said Prysiazniuk.

Sinclair is hopeful they are prepared: “We’ve got a great team in place, logistics are set, all the resources are ready and on standby.”

This while more than 300 people from five southern Manitoba First Nations were also forced to leave their homes because of spring flooding.

The Carrot and North Saskatchewan rivers are expected to crest by Wednesday.

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