NOOAITCH FIRST NATION, BRITISH COLUMBIA—The same rainfall that forced the evacuation of 7,000 residents in Merritt, B.C., also stranded a small First Nation village just 20 kilometres away, but an all-out effort quickly reconnected the community.
What was once the smallSpius Creek turned into a raging torrent earlier this week as record-setting rain washed away a road leading to the community.
About 150 members of the Nooaitch First Nation had no power and no way out.
Just days later crews, including some who had been working on the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline project, are putting the finishing touches on the reconstruction.
On Friday, a backhoe dug more material from the creek bank to reinforce the new road.
“Mother Nature was not very happy with all of the rain and with the accumulation, some pretty aggressive flows came in and basically just wiped out the bridge,” said JJ Holmes from the Lower Nicola Indian Band Development Corporation, who took part in the reconstruction.
“Every two minutes there was another tree falling down. They were just flying through here so it was pretty extensive damage.”
Holmes flipped through photos on his phone taken Tuesday showing the water gushing down the creek, creating a gap between the original bridge that survived the deluge and the road.
“Three days ago it was a pretty good stretch, about 45 metres from where we’re standing to the bridge. We had to get some rock and material established and then get some access for the folks across the bridge.”
The B.C. government declared a state of emergency this week after days of rain forced rivers over their banks, including the Coldwater River in Merritt.
The storm caused mudslides across highways, flooding and at least one death although four other people are also missing in a landslide over Highway 99 near Lillooet.
Holmes said the area that was cut off is home to many band elders as well as a woman who is pregnant and others in need of medical assistance.
He said they built the road so those people could restock their supplies.
“It’s been pretty chaotic over the past few days but the people on the other side, man, to see their smiles coming across the bridge. We’ve had it open for the past few nights so people could come out after 7 o’clock and go into town and try and get supplies,” he said.
“In a couple of hours here we’ll be putting up signs and it will be open to the community to come and go as they please now.”
By Bill Graveland