POLITICS

Flood-threatened Kashechewan expected to complete evacuation on Tuesday

04/27/2015 07:16 EDT | Updated 07/31/2015 05:59 EDT
KASHECHEWAN, Ont. - The evacuation of a flood-threatened northern Ontario community is nearing completion.

Kashechewan First Nation Chief Derek Stephen said there are about 200 people remaining in the town of nearly 2,000. They are expected to be flown out Tuesday, along with the chief himself, he said.

The chief and other officials are worried about the breakup of the ice on the Albany River, just south of James Bay.

That breakup is about 30 kilometres from town and when it arrives, Stephen said, the water becomes much faster flowing and chunks of ice can push up against the community's much-maligned dike. Stephen expected the faster moving chunks of ice arrive some time Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

Emergency crews are on standby if the dike doesn't hold, Stephen said.

The chief added that "15 to 20 men" will remain behind to monitor the dike and the rest of the community's infrastructure.

He earlier said that he was going to evacuate the entire town, but has decided to stick with his original plan to keep those 15 to 20 residents around to keep watch — because they can remain on safer, higher ground.

The evacuees are being relocated in a number of communities including Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls, Wawa, Greenstone and Cornwall.

"Everyone is getting settled," Stephen said.

They had a bit of a rough night at the arena in Greenstone because it was "kinda cold, but they'll get that fixed soon."

This is the fourth straight year the First Nation has had to evacuate, and Chief Stephen said the time has come to move the community to a new permanent location on higher ground.