Grand Forks and the Boundary should expect ongoing and long-term provincial assistance in rebuilding following what is being described as “catastrophic” flooding, according to public safety minister Mike Farnworth.
Farnworth, Minister for Public Safety also responsible for Emergency Management B.C., toured Grand Forks on Sunday and spoke to first responders, offering assurances that the Boundary would not be forgotten by the provincial government in the months ahead.
No commitments of a dollar amount were made public on Sunday, but the RDKB indicated on Saturday that a damage assessment was in progress.
Farnworth did a helicopter tour in the morning, followed by a media tour with first responders and members of Emergency Management BC. Later in the afternoon he met Grand Forks Fire/Rescue volunteers.
Farnworth said he was shocked by the scenes in Grand Forks, and by the conversations he had with people/
“I met a man in the evacuation centre, he lost his home and his business,” Farnworth said. “You can’t begin to imagine the stress that places on people.”
“I have never seen anything like it,” he said.
Grand Forks mayor Frank Konrad, who has been criticized locally for lack of a public presence during the flooding, said on Saturday he had spoken with Horgan and, while Horgan did not commit to a dollar figure, gave him assurances the province was committed.
Konrad, as well as RDKB Area D director Roly Russell, were present with the minister on Sunday.
At the Grand Forks Fire/Rescue hall later in the day, Farnworth took questions from media and a small group of assembled residents.
Dan Derby, Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) liaison and regional fire chief, said that from a planning perspective, the community is still in response mode.
“The forecast … is very concerning. We are in response, we are not out of this yet,” he said, adding that the heat and ensuing rain in the forecast “is going to take this catastrophic event and multiply it.”
In a statement issued Friday, B.C. Premier John Horgan said that disaster financial assistance was already being rolled out for flood victims in the Thompson-Nicola region. The RDKB has indicated plans to apply for disaster financial assistance.
Farnworth said from a recovery perspective, the flooding in Grand Forks could be considered “worse” than a wildfire.
“In many ways it is worse than a fire because a fire comes through and it burns everything clear, here, you have sewage, debris, cars underwater, stuff scattered, that is huge in itself,” Farnworth said. “Then there is infrastructure.
“There is a huge amount of work and it will take a long time. People need to know, there is the immediate assistance, but the province is going to be here for a long time in terms of the rebuild.”