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Church aids flooded Newfoundland town

Posted on: February 20, 2003 6:44 PM
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by Jane Davidson

[Anglican Church of Canada] Parishioners of a local Anglican church are part of the relief effort for the people of Badger, Newfoundland, who were forced out of their homes by a wall of ice after three rivers surged over their banks and converged on the town last Saturday.

The 1,100 residents fled, many of them with just the clothes on their backs, when the water and chunks of ice from the Exploit, Red Indian and Badger Rivers were pushed into town by an upstream ice jam. When temperatures dropped below -25C degrees, the town became locked in ice, and some residents reported over a metre of ice inside their houses.

The Revd Randy Lockyer, incumbent at Holy Trinity, Grand Falls, about a 20 minute drive from Badger, said most people had come to Grand Falls to seek shelter in an old nursing home or stay with friends and family.

On Monday night, he said, the churches were part of a community planning meeting led by the Red Cross and Salvation Army, which are leading the disaster relief efforts. "We are trying to keep the community together," he said.

He said the churches were collecting both food and clothing, especially needed since so many left their homes in a hurry with few belongings. The churches in Grand Falls, which include two Anglican parishes, will be taking turns cooking meals for displaced families, he said. "The offers of help have been overwhelming," he added.

Many of his parishioners, who number 550 families, had phoned in with offers of places to stay for displaced families. "If this goes on quite long we will be looking at those offers," he said.

A mothballed nursing home in Grand Falls, rapidly re-opened to accommodate 150 displaced families, had no kitchen facilities, Mr Lockyer added, and is probably not a long term solution for housing.

At the meeting of the local clergy, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army on Monday night, the clergy drew up a roster to offer round the clock pastoral care to the people who were evacuated from their homes. There is a lot of anxiety, Mr Lockyer said, "Because people were coming with so little and do not know the condition of their homes." Many cannot return to work, and local schools were scrambling to accept students from the Badger public elementary school.

"The children attending school in Badger are all welcome to go to either of the schools here," he added. "They will be taken right in to make sure there is little disruption in their schooling."

Television reports of Badger's situation showed cars encased in solid ice with only their roofs showing, and ice up to the bottom windows of houses. The water rose so fast that people were evacuated in front end loaders with their pets.

Area churches are on standby, Mr Lockyer said, waiting to see how they would be needed as the situation unfolds. "It could be months before people can go back," he said. "There is lots of property damage and it will take time for all that to fall out and for people to do the necessary work to make their homes habitable again."

He said that although the water seems to have gone down, it could rise again. "If the ice that's jammed up gives way, that could compound the problem."

On Tuesday afternoon the Red Cross issued a plea for CAN$250,000 in disaster relief funds to help the people of Badger. Some people had jobs in Grand Falls, but others will not be able to return to work until they can go back to their homes and community.

Next Sunday's church service will have the people of Badger as its focus, said Mr Lockyer. Badger is part of a three-point parish along with Buchans and Millertown. A retired priest, the Revd Joan Shave, normally looks after the Anglican community there on a part-time basis.

"We'll pray for the people of Badger and pray that people will offer their assistance," said Mr Lockyer. "Once we have the call to do whatever we can, it will just be a matter of responding to the call."