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Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., residents returning home

Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., residents returning home

CBC News
Three weeks after floods ravaged Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., residents are still waiting to return home.

Most homes were evacuated nearly three weeks ago when the Liard River flooded its banks, and the community's residents were moved to Fort Simpson.

The community's newly elected chief, Clayton Konisenta, said a small group of young men will be the first to return and start the clean up process. He hopes they will lay the groundwork for families and elders to return later in the day.

The water has receded and crews have started assessing the damage.

Konisenta said fire crews from Fort Liard and Fort Simpson spent about a week in Nahanni Butte and work is progressing slowly.

He called the damage devastating and said people are anxious to get back to their homes.

"They're feeling frustrated, sad; they want to go home. They're homesick - they've never been away from home this long" Konisenta said.

Resident says community layered with clay and dust

About 15 residents weathered the flood and stayed in Nahanni Butte, including Earl Hope.

Hope said the community is drying up but there is a layer of clay and dust covering everything. Some homes are beyond repair and many buildings are ruined.

"There's quite a bit of damage, they have to do all the floors, up the walls, about three feet up the walls" Hope said.

Health remains a big issue in the community

The N.W.T. Department of Municipal and Community Affairs hired an adjuster to get an accurate estimate of the damage to homes and buildings.

Kevin Brezinski, the director of public safety, said mold is a big concern to the department.

"We want to know what we're up against and we want to know what we need to do in the immediate future to take care of any health risks," he said.

Officials expect the adjuster's report in about two weeks.

Power largely restored to community

Some services are up and running, including the power plant and phone service. There are two officials from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs in Nahanni Butte and they went door to door to check if it was safe to restore power.

It was laregly restored on Thursday, according to Northwest Territories Power Corporation spokesperson Bob Kelly.

"There are still five businesses and homes that we won't restore power to until an electrical inspector gives the all clear," Kelly said. "Essentially when people come back to the community they will be able to go back into their homes and businesses and if necessary reset their breakers and they should have power."

However, the community still doesn't have access to a sewer. The ground is still too soggy to build a temporary pit.

Konisenta said, with most infrastructure restored, they're satisfied it's safe for residents to return.

Donations continue to pour in to Nahanni Butte, including a $10,000 boost from Fort Simpson's Northern Store on Thursday.

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