British Columbia First Nation reconnected after flooding destroyed bridge

NOOAITCH FIRST NATION, BC – The same precipitation that forced the evacuation of 7,000 residents in Merritt, BC, also stranded a small First Nations village just 20 kilometers away, but an effort total quickly reconnected the community.

What was once the little Spius stream turned into a raging torrent earlier this week as record-breaking rain washed away a road leading to the community.

About 150 members of the Nooaitch First Nation had no power and no way out.

A few days later, crews, including some who were working on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline project, put the finishing touches on the reconstruction.

On Friday, a backhoe dug more material from the creek bank to strengthen the new road.

“Mother Nature was not very happy with all of the rain and the buildup, some pretty aggressive runoff came in and just wiped out the bridge,” said JJ Holmes of the Lower Nicola Indian Band Development Corporation, who participated in reconstruction. .

“Every two minutes another tree was falling. They were flying right through here so the damage was pretty bad.”

Holmes flipped through photos on his phone taken Tuesday showing water gushing out of the creek, creating a gap between the original bridge that survived the flood and the road.

“Three days ago it was a pretty good stretch, about 45 yards from where we stand to the bridge. We had to put in some rock and some gear, and then give people access to the bridge. other side of the bridge. “

The BC government declared a state of emergency this week after days of rain forced rivers to their banks, including the Coldwater River at Merritt.

The storm caused mudslides on highways, flooding and at least one fatality, although four other people were also missing in a landslide on Highway 99 near Lillooet.

Holmes said the area that was cut is home to many band elders as well as a pregnant woman and others in need of medical assistance.

He said that they had built the road so that these people could restock.

“It’s been pretty chaotic the last few days, but people on the other side, man, to see their smiles cross the bridge. We’ve opened it up the last few nights so people can go out after 7pm and go into town. and try to refuel, ”he said.

“In a few hours we will be putting up signs and the community can now come and go as they please.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 20, 2021.

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