Ottawa woman worries for family and friends in Merritt, B.C. flooding

OTTAWA — The heartbreak from the mudslides and intense flooding in British Columbia is being felt across the country, including in the capital. Those with family in B.C. say there is constant worry.

Francyne Joe grew up in Merritt, but now lives in Ottawa.

“Merritt is quite dear to my heart, and now my daughter lives there,” she said.

Joe said it her daughter told her just how bad the flooding was after Joe returned home from work Monday afternoon.

Evacuation orders displaced more than 7,000 people after the entire city of Merritt had to leave their homes. Joe says her family home has luckily not been destroyed.

“Thankfully my home (in Merritt) is on higher ground, and we have a separate water and septic system, so that area is safe,” she said. “But my mother has still decided to move to Kamloops with her sister just to be safe.”

Francyne Joe

The flooding comes months after the B.C. wildfires forced many to leave their homes, including those in Lytton, about 100 kilometres from Merritt. 

Joe says, “I couldn’t believe it- all over again! All over again the city of Merritt is being evacuated. I was over there in July. The fires had people ready to go in a moment’s notice. Some people had Lytton, some people had left my band of the Shackan First Nation, months later they are having to race for their lives.”

“I don’t know how longer Merritt is going to be able to last.”

She says is has been hard to be so far away from her family during this difficult time.

“My aunt and uncle are trapped on one side of the river because the bridge has been washed away. My daughter is now spending the next couple of days in a hotel in Kamloops. My mother and her husband refuse to leave… but they are in a safe spot in Merritt, thank goodness.” 

Joe describes the rain as relentless, rescue operations challenged to keep up and help people to safety.

“The water is coming so fast. Within an hour it was down to your waist… moments later it was up to your shoulders in downtown Merritt.”

She says residents are feeling despondent.

“Some people still haven’t found a permanent home after the fires, now we are six weeks from Christmas and some people have been displaced again.”

Many ranchers in the area are desperately trying to save their horses.

“They were helping horses in a field who were trapped. The water on the horses was up to their chests, so that tells you how desperate the situation is.”

Her greatest fear is that Merritt won’t get the help it needs to recover and rebuild.

“We know there are parts of Merritt that are gone- houses are flooded, trailers have floated away, and the erosion that came from the fire is part of it.

“I think the interim, the emergency units are up and running, I think what we need is to do, is to make sure that are politicians are ready to provide the money to help with housing, to help with accommodations, to make sure employers are being supported to provide the jobs for people, and to be there to support our fellow community members.”

Joe says she wants to return to Merritt as soon as it is possible and safe to do so.

“I just don’t know what I am coming home to.

“I need to see what has happened to my community and see what I can do. We are strong, Canadians are strong, British Columbians are strong, Merrittonians are strong.”

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