COVID-19 and flooding: How Kashechewan is prepping for two natural disasters – TVO

Each spring, the remote First Nation faces the risk of flooding and evacuation. This year, the coronavirus is making matters even more complicated

Chief Leo Friday has been trying for 15 years to relocate his community of Kashechewan First Nation away from the Albany River. Each spring, as the snowbanks melt and the river thaws, flood waters threaten homes and infrastructure. In past years, the community’s 2,000 residents have evacuated to Cochrane, Kapuskasing, Thunder Bay, and Timmins — all several hundred kilometres away.

But, this year, the remote First Nation, located near the western shores of James Bay, is facing two natural disasters: flooding and COVID-19. “I’m concerned about their safety. I want to make sure that they are okay and to see everything will work out smoothly,” says Friday. “We want to keep our members away from the city and away from the stores and away from everything.”

Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has tracked and modelled the flooding situation on the river, where the ice is projected to break up by May 1. The community does not want to evacuate to the south, as the Porcupine region has become the epicentre of the virus in northern Ontario, with 57 cases and three deaths. And the northern municipalities that normally take in the evacuees say they will be unable to house an influx of thousands of people, as their resources have been stretched thin.

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