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Volunteers step up as Thunder Bay declared a 'disaster area'

Staff writers

June 3, 2012 — The city of Thunder Bay is being considered a 'disaster area' after significant flooding earlier this week -- and volunteers have stepped in to help those most in need.

Several pumps working overtime across the city
Several pumps working overtime across the city

Volunteers from the Red Cross are assessing damages caused by extensive rainfall in Thunder Bay last week.

"The Red Cross has over 100 volunteers on the ground, visiting homes and doing on the ground assessments on behalf of the city of Thunder Bay," said Tom Windebank, Regional Manager of Disaster Management for Toronto and Peel Region. "It does appear that a lot of homes have significant damage and we're continuing to do assessments."

Now, additional volunteers are joining existing crews in Thunder Bay. Many are able to join because of donations and support from both major corporations and individuals. "We've been reaching out to airlines so we can get our volunteers up there at reduced rates or free rates, and we've had some real generosity there from West Jet and from Porter Airlines," explains Windebank.

The Red Cross has also set up temporary shelters where people can sleep, take a shower and get clean towels.

The city declared a state of emergency on Monday morning after over 100 mm of rain fell across the region. Pump failures at the city's water treatment exacerbated the problem.

Two days later, city council held a meeting where they declared the community a 'disaster area,' which will allow the city to obtain funding from senior levels of government.

The funding will hopefully go towards clean-up and recovery efforts and help homeowners who were greatly affected by the floods.

"Although the damaging rain and flooding came on quickly and suddenly, the full recovery will take time – days and even weeks," said Mayor Keith Hobbs in a press release.

Nearly 200 mm of rain fell in Thunder Bay during the month of May -- and almost half of that fell last Sunday.

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