B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth was in Merritt on Thursday getting a firsthand look at the devastation on the ground following last month’s historic flooding that forced the community to evacuate and caused catastrophic damage to critical infrastructure.
Farnworth, Minister of Indigenous Relations Murray Rankin, Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart and Merritt Mayor Linda Brown took a helicopter tour over the flood-affected areas to get a better picture of the devastation.
Tegart said the cabinet ministers had to visit the community to fully understand the extent of the damage.
“I think we can look at pictures and we can watch videos, but until you actually see it on the ground, it's hard to imagine the devastation,” Tegart said, adding that she expected the province to commit to helping residents after seeing the area firsthand.
“We're really pleased that the province has come today. Our expectation is that there will be action out of it.”
Farnworth said the province will assist in Merritt and the surrounding areas as they recover.
“The province is here to assist them, we're also in partnership with the federal government to ensure that when it comes to things such as the infrastructure, that we're able to build it back better for the long term,” Farnworth said.
The recovery will differ on a case-by-case basis, he said. Some buildings may be reinforced and rebuilt with diking to prevent future damage, while others could be bought out and the owners relocated — similar to what happened in Grand Forks after flooding there in 2018.
“In some areas, it may make sense to to relocate homes as such as we saw in Grand Forks and in the case of Alberta, for example, in High River, in a similar situation that took place,” Farnworth said.
Municipal officials in Merritt are still unsure about the extent of the damage, but estimate about 300 homes will need to repaired. About 50 of them have been completely destroyed.
Brown said a recovery manager will soon be established and a total number of people affected will be announced.