By Nairah Ahmed
A fire at a water treatment plant in the remote Eabametoong First Nation has left the community without water for nearly a week, forcing the evacuation of dozens of people to Thunder Bay, Ont.
The City of Thunder Bay, located 360 kilometres from Eabametoong, said it began receiving evacuees on Sunday, following a request from the province to host those affected.
Approximately 190 vulnerable community members, including seniors and children, have been evacuated following the Wednesday fire, Kyle Richardson of the Treasury Board Secretariat and Emergency Management Ontario wrote in a statement.
First Nation leadership declared a state of emergency on Saturday, requesting that 400 people be evacuated.
Richardson said about six evacuation flights have been co-ordinated to date. “Our number one priority will always be to make sure that communities and people are safe.”
Indigenous Services Canada is working with community leadership, the province and Matawa First Nations Management to co-ordinate evacuation efforts and implement temporary solutions to re-establish water distribution. ISC is funding up to 15 litres of bottled water per person, per day, for drinking, cooking and basic hygiene needs. On Monday, Matawa First Nations Management set up shower kits, washing stations and a health clinic in the community.
ISC said it will fund eligible response and recovery costs aspart of the Emergency Management Assistance Program.
“A hazardous waste clean-up is also underway due to chemicals involved in the fire,” ISC wrote in a statement.
A statement from theNishnawbe Aski Police Service said a fire involving an abandoned vehicle and several storage containers spread to the water treatment plant in the community.
Two boys, aged 13 and 14, have been charged with arson, police said.
Brad Duce, the police service’s superintendent of criminal investigations and specialty operations, has said safe water supply could be restored this week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2023.
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