Merritt councillor starts fundraiser for evacuees awaiting emergency assistance | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Merritt councillor starts fundraiser for evacuees awaiting emergency assistance

Evacuees from Merritt have fled to other Interior communities, including Kamloops, to find emergency support while their city grapples with damages from the Nov. 15, 2021 flooding event.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Kelly Brook Allen

As evacuees from Merritt wait for accommodation and food voucher supports, a city councillor is stepping up efforts to help them while they are in limbo.

Mike Banghu is hearing from Merritt residents who came to Kamloops and have been waiting since Monday to hear what Emergency Support Services can offer them.

"The local ESS is doing their best, however, it is taking days for people to be connected with their vouchers," he said.

His biggest concern is for people that are more disadvantaged, people that have less disposable money to support themselves while out of their homes and out of work.

READ MORE: Interior residents stranded by closed B.C. highways don't need COVID test to get home through U.S.

While there are government agencies in place to help residents when disaster strikes, he says those supports are not coming quickly enough. That's why he started an online fundraiser with the goal of sending money to those that need it.

"Every dollar they're indebting themselves with is impacting their future. I want to help," Banghu said. "I care. These are my people - they're hurting. I'm hurting, and it's no joke."

Banghu, like many other Merritt residents, is staying in a Kamloops hotel while the city remains under evacuation order. He has been waiting for two days for a return call from Emergency Support Services.

Residents were told to evacuate on Nov. 15 when the Coldwater River breached its banks and flooded parts of the city, which has since caused the collapse of at least one bridge and damaged the water treatment facility.

Evacuees were sent to Kamloops and Kelowna to seek emergency support.

The City of Kamloops saw between 2,000 to 2,500 evacuees from Merritt arrive at McArthur Island Park looking for emergency support.

According to Kamloops chief administrative officer, David Trawin, 966 people were given accommodations at Kamloops and Sun Peaks hotels, while others were given $50 gas cards to drive to Salmon Arm where there was more accommodation.

READ MORE: The latest news on mudslides and flooding in British Columbia for Nov. 17, 2021

Around 120 people slept on cots at the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre overnight on Monday, and then busses took many of those people to Kelowna, Trawin said.

Flood waters are beginning to recede in Merritt, but a failure of infrastructure like the water treatment facility will take more time to assess and repair before basic services can be restored, Banghu said.

Although faucets won't run and toilets can't flush, some residents have chosen to stay. Banghu said he does not encourage people to stay behind in an evacuation order, but he also doesn't blame them for their choice when others are paying for hotels and waiting for government support.

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"There's people in Merritt right now that refuse to leave because of the situation in Kamloops. They're afraid because they've heard the stories," he said. "I suppose there's too many people. That said, this is Kamloops. This is a central city." reached out to Emergency Management B.C. and the City of Kamloops for comment on wait times at Emergency Support Services but has yet to receive a reply.

The online fundraiser for Merritt evacuees started by Banghu can be found here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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