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Flooded Alberta First Nation working to make roads passable

A First Nation east of Calgary is working on making roads passable as many rural areas of southern Alberta contend with overland flooding.

“Road conditions are showing signs of minor improvement and crews have now begun the task of repairing roadways that have suffered the worst damage,” the Siksika Nation said in a release Wednesday.

The Siksika Nation declared a week-long state of local emergency on Monday that could be extended if the flooding persists.

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It has said more than half of the 560 kilometres of roads that criss-cross Canada’s second-largest reserve have been affected as large volumes of snow melt. Although some roads are under water, the main issues are mud and damage caused by vehicles.

Stewart Breaker, who is in charge of the emergency response, said roads are drying up thanks to warming temperatures. But he said he expects most of the snow to melt over the weekend and authorities are assessing the situation every day.

Keon Doore, who is in charge of public works for the Siksika Nation, says roads have been closed to school buses and vehicles over 2,500 kilograms to avoid further damage.

“It became a safety factor, particularly for the little kids,” Doore said in an update Wednesday. “A lot of these roads are still really rough for a bus to travel on, so little kids are bouncing around on the buses and there’s no seat belts.”

He said graders and gravel trucks are working on smoothing out the main thoroughfares.

Anyone who drives on closed roads does so at their own risk, Doore added. A tow ban has been instituted, meaning no tow trucks will help anyone who gets stuck.

Chief Joseph Weasel Child said Tuesday that 30 of the First Nation’s 1,200 homes have been affected, meaning leaking basements and flooded septic fields. The Siksika Nation is home to around 7,600 people.

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There are no mandatory evacuation orders in effect.

If people are forced to leave their homes, Breaker said the community’s sportsplex will be used as a reception centre. The centre is currently open for elders and members who need access to health care.

The Siksika Nation was hit hard by severe flooding in southern Alberta in 2013. Since then, its public works department has spent 80 per cent of its time rebuilding homes and, as a result, the roads have not been getting the proper upkeep, Weasel Child said.

“We’re in dire circumstances right now due to the infrastructure, lack of funding and a number of things that have compounded the situation over a number of years,” he said.

A number of rural areas in southern Alberta have been deluged in recent days. The Medicine Hat News reported that five people were forced from a home in the County of Forty Mile as flood waters overflowed a canal.

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