Alberta flood volunteers: 'People have really come together'
Published Monday, June 24, 2013 9:58AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 24, 2013 12:52PM EDT
As southern Alberta deals with the worst flooding in its history, volunteers and staff with the Canadian Red Cross say they are working around the clock to help those affected get through the crisis and begin the cleanup.
Matt Baden, a Red Cross emergency response team lead, has been working at an emergency shelter in Blackie, just a few kilometres east of High River, the community that was hardest hit by the flooding.
He says currently, the Red Cross is working to supply the evacuees at the shelter with the basic necessities, such as cots, blankets and hygiene kits, and to make people as comfortable as possible.
“But we are also working with the town and our community partners such as the Salvation Army to make sure that food and water are provided as well,” he told CTV New Channel from Blackie.
In the next couple of days, the focus will also be on laundry service and making sure people have clean clothes, he said. As well, ensuring that evacuees can access medications is also a priority.
Baden says he’s been heartened to see that local residents have been pitching in to help in any way they can.
“The outpouring of support from the local communities, especially Blackie itself -- we have tons of people coming from surrounding counties coming out and wanting to help,” he said.
“Some of them have wanted to drop off donations and while we’re not accepting physical donations at this time, we have had monumental support from people around this town.”
High River Mayor Emile Blokland said Sunday there is still no timeline for when the town’s 13,000 evacuees would be able to return to their homes, explaining that the town's infrastructure had suffered a "critical blow" and every house needed to be inspected.
Baden says the Red Cross will be in the area “for the foreseeable future,” staying for as long as needed.
The Red Cross says trained volunteers from across the country are being sent West to help, including six from Newfoundland and Labrador, three from New Brunswick, with many more deployments still expectd.
As well, the group says 60 more volunteers are helping out at three Maritime operation centres, where they are registering and keep track of evacuees.
Red Cross volunteer and Burnaby, B.C. resident Debbie Clyne says she has been pleased to see how many local residents are pitching in with recovery efforts.
“People have really come together in ways they’ve never seen before,” she told Canada AM Monday from Blackie.
She said she came in to help on Sunday and found volunteers and municipal emergency management people working around the clock.
Clyne, who also volunteered with the Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, said she and other volunteers are using up their vacation days at work to help out.
“I love helping people. Red Cross volunteers have a lot of heart as do the people around here,” she said.
Another volunteer, Rose Thompson, from London, Ont. is also heading to the area to help. She has been volunteering with the Red Cross for just a year and a half and was able to help in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and flooding in Thunder Bay. She says the work is rewarding.
“It’s become such a fulfilling part of my life to go out and help those who are most vulnerable and those who are in need,” she told CTV London.
“Losing everything is devastating.”
Alberta Premier Alison Redford has said that after the last of the floodwaters recede, rebuilding will be a monumental task, but her government will do what's necessary, she vowed.
Redford has already appointed three junior ministers to take charge of recovery efforts, two to oversee recovery in the province's southeast, and one in the southwest.