Hundreds in Peguis First Nation flee homes as Fisher River floods community

Flooding has forced hundreds of people living in Peguis First Nation to leave their homes after local officials issued a mandatory evacuation order on Sunday. 

A total of 920 people are now in hotels in Winnipeg.

Chief Glenn Hudson said he has never seen flooding this bad.

“It’s worse than the 2011 flood, which was a huge event for us in terms of flooding, but I believe this is probably one of the worst on record,” he told Marcy Markusa, host of CBC Manitoba morning radio show Information Radio.

The Interlake community, 160 kilometres north of Winnipeg, is the most populous First Nation in the province with around 11,000 members, 4,800 of whom live in the community. 

Areas in the Interlake and east of Lake Winnipeg received an average of 30 to 50 millimetres of precipitation over the weekend, after a month of enormous rain and snowfall that has already saturated the ground, Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure said.

Over the weekend, ice jams at the mouth of the Fisher River caused water levels to rise behind them and flow over roads, flooding the community despite sandbagging efforts and the deployment of water-filled Tiger Dams.

A Tiger Dam barrier protects a home threatened by flooding on Peguis First Nation. Chief Glenn Hudson says this year’s flooding may be the worst the community has ever seen. (Peguis First Nation/Facebook)

“There has been many homes that have been breached,” Hudson said.

There are 480 homes surrounded by floodwater near the Fisher River, he said.

Other houses in outlying areas have been cut off by flooding over roads. There are at least six roads that are inaccessible due to flooding, Hudson said.

“Where roads have been breached, people cannot get out,” he said.

“So when it comes to emergency services like ambulance, fire, etc., RCMP, those roadways are cut off completely.”

Buses have taken people out of the community and into Winnipeg.

Several roads in Peguis First Nation have been flooded. (Peguis First Nation/Facebook)

A spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross told CBC News that Peguis is the only community it is currently helping with evacuation.

Hudson said the community has done the best it can with its evacuation efforts, but they were caught by surprise after initial predictions showed little risk of severe flooding.

“I know I’ve received a lot of calls and texts from people in terms of being afraid of the water, because obviously they haven’t seen this level of an event before.”

The first flood bulletin from the Province of Manitoba to warn about a flood on the Fisher River was issued on Friday.

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