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Updated: Sun, 11 May 2014 23:15:44 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Kashechewan First Nation evacuation escalates



Evacuation efforts are scaling up for Kashechewan First Nation, as flooding from the Albany River worsens. Supplied by Charlie Angus

Evacuation efforts are scaling up for Kashechewan First Nation, as flooding from the Albany River worsens. Supplied by Charlie Angus

All residents of the northern community of Kashechewan will be evacuated due to flood concerns, the Ontario government says.

Kashechewan First Nation leaders upgraded their emergency declaration on Sunday, asking for much of the community of 2,000 people to be evacuated as flooding from the Albany River worsens, Emergency Management Ontario says.

Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services spokesperson Andrew Morrison said it's hoped all the residents of the community on the shores of James Bay will be moved out within the next day or so.

Starting Saturday evening, hundreds of people were flown out to Thunder Bay and the municipality of Greenstone in northwestern Ontario.  Thunder Bay emergency officials were expecting a total of about 600 evacuees to arrive by late Sunday night.   

Morrison said the flooding is expected to get worse, and so the remaining residents will be flown out Monday.

At first, the Kashechewan evacuation was at Stage 1, requiring only seniors, children and people with medical issues to leave. But later on Sunday, the First Nation and Emergency Management Ontario upgraded it to Stage 2.

Thunder Bay deputy fire chief Dave Paxton told CBC News earlier Sunday that the upgrade likely meant the entire community would have to be evacuated.  He said officials were concerned that the rising floods could compromise the airport in Kashechewan, leaving a small window in which people can leave. The community is accessible only by plane.  

Weather hampers flights

In an online update, Emergency Management Ontario said bad weather was affecting flights out of Kashechewan, but conditions were expected to improve Sunday evening. The agency is working with cities and towns across Ontario to determine where all the evacuees will go.  In the past, Kapuskasing and Cornwall have housed flood evacuees from Kashechewan. 

Evacuation has become a familiar spring event for the First Nation. Last year, Thunder Bay housed about 150 evacuees due to flooding.

Charlie Angus, MP for Timmins-James Bay, told CBC News that "year after year the community suffers damage and deep trauma from the spring flooding."

"Last year 40 homes were badly damaged because the sewage infrastructure failed as the water rose," Angus wrote in an email. "Those 40 homes are again filled with sewage."

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