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Badger battered arid flooded: a small Newfoundland community finds itself frozen in time. (Canadian News).

Jerome Paul looked out his bathroom window on Saturday, Feb. 15, in Badger, Nfld., and saw one big rush of ice coming down the river. It was 9 a.m., but his grandson was not out of bed. The young fellow dressed quickly, and the two walked through the water to the Buchans Road, which was high enough to still be dry. It had taken only 10 minutes, but there was no way to go back. By 11 o'clock, a state of emergency had been declared. Everyone was ordered to evacuate the town.

Badger is a small community by the side of the Exploits River, which drains central Newfoundland. There is an elbow bend at Badger where two smaller rivers join it. The Red Indian River drains Little Red Indian Lake and, from the north, Badger Brook is a considerable stream flowing under the Trans-Canada Highway. It is usually about 25 metres wide but now is almost half a kilometre of rafted ice. The Exploits often floods in spring, but this flood was different. It came in February with temperatures close to -20 C. Water entered homes, sheds and public buildings and soon froze everything it its place.

Mr. Paul has lived on River Road for 67 years. He has never seen anything like this. In 1983, he was out of his house for three months; this time, he and his wife have probably lost their home and everything in it. Their daughter heard about the flood on the radio and came in her car to take them to Buchans Junction. After three days there, the Pauls and their grandson joined most people from Badger in Grand Falls-Windsor where they were given rooms in the old Carmelite House, a former seniors residence that had been vacant for more than a year.

"We have been here ever since, and they have been treating us good--really good!" Mr. Paul commented. "We have our own bedrooms, and meals when we want them, and coffee and fruit in the cafeteria. The accommodations have been excellent."

Space in the old Carmelite was made available by the Central Newfoundland Hospital board and is being run by the Salvation Army. Maj. Roy Bridger, the local corps officer, has taken on this extra duty with the aid of members of his congregation, volunteers from the community and other Salvation Army personnel. He said community response has been awesome. Almost 200 people are living in the Carmelite, another 33 at Windsor Pentecostal School and 55 at the Pentecostal Church on Grenfell Heights. The Carmelite centre is providing food for everyone and acting as a source of supply for many others staying in family homes in the town. The centre is providing three meals a day for 1,500 people.

From the Carmelite, I went to the local armoury, home for B Company of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Over to one side, an army sergeant was talking to two Salvation Army volunteers at the refreshment stand. I approached a central table and was asked if I had an appointment. The people at the table wore vests that identified them as Red Cross workers, and all around the armoury floor were tables, and interview cubicles. The Red Cross had assembled teams to interview representatives of each displaced household to assess their need for assistance.

Debbie MacPherson is a Red Cross volunteer from Riverview, N.B. A man had come from Bathurst, N.B., a woman from Prince Edward Island and four from Nova Scotia. "We are helping the local people with the assessments," one woman commented. "I have been on assignments like this before, but I have never met such optimistic people. I have come to help them, but they are concerned for me -- how I am getting on. They worry about taking care of me. Many of these people will have to start over. They have lost everything, and some will never go back. But they are remarkable for their humanitarianism toward each other. They care about each other. And the local people are very generous."

Illustrating her comment about generosity, a local radio station held a fundraiser with an objective of $250,000; it raised more than $300,000 in one day. In addition to its work on needs assessments, the Red Cross is heading the financial campaign. The daily newspapers in St. John's and Corner Brook, The Telegram and the Western Star, published a joint appeal and enclosed envelopes with every copy of the papers. The Royal Canadian Legion is asking every legion branch in the country to hold an event to raise funds.

Newfoundland Presbyterians also responded quickly. The Grand Falls-Windsor congregation of St. Matthew's, a small group of families, contributed $500 to the radio station's fundraiser. In St. John's, when Rev. Sandy Wessel of St. David's suggested a local initiative, St. David's and St. Andrew's congregations appealed for bedding, clothes and food. On Saturday, I borrowed a large Jeep from Rev. David Sutherland of St. Andrew's and secured the load to the roof. On Sunday morning at St. Matthew's, the choir seats were stacked with bags and boxes, which members of the congregation took to the Carmelite House. A further shipment of parcels was sent from St. John's later in the week. And at Ms. Wessel's request, Presbyterian World Service and Development made a national appeal on behalf of the victims of the icy flood. There will be an ongoing need for donations of food, articles and money.

What happened on Feb. 15 was a flash flood that drove people from their homes. What is uncertain is what can be rescued. One of Jerome Paul's neighbours is a transport driver. He cannot move his tractor trailer in front of his home. And Mr. Paul has a car beside his house and an All-Terrain Vehicle and snow machine in his shed -- all are frozen in the ice. Foundation walls are bent and cracked, and plumbing and wiring are damaged beyond repair. Some houses in Badger are above the flood level, but they have been evacuated. Severe damage could occur to houses left untended in the depth of winter. The only business in the village still operating is a service station on the Trans-Canada Highway. It is beside Badger Creek and could be damaged if the water rises again. Many people have lost everything below the ice, and some will never be able to return. Millions of dollars will be needed to rebuild the town.

Only about 1,500 people live in Buchans, and all have been severely affected by the flood. The danger has not passed. On Monday, Feb. 24th, there was a second evacuation. The ice in the river 15 kilometres to the west was observed to be moving. If those sheets of ice, or others in their wake, should float down and create a new blockage, the flooding and freezing would become worse. And spring breakup is still to come. The Exploits River usually floods in April.

RELATED ARTICLE: You can help Badger!

Presbyterian World Service and Development has made an initial grant of $5,000 to the Red Cross but needs your help to respond to. flood relief efforts for the residents of Badger, Nfld. Make a donation through your church offering, clearly marking your gift PWS&D-Badger, NL Floods. Or send a donation directly to PWS&D. Income tax receipts will be issued.

Presbyterian World Service and Development 50 Wynford Drive, Toronto, ON M3C 1J7


Web site:

Make credit card donations by calling 416-441-1111 or 1-800-619-7301.

Karen Plater PWS&D

Rev. Ian Wishart is interim moderator of St. Matthew's, Grand Falls-Windsor, Nfld.
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Article Details
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Author:Wishart, Ian S.
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Geographic Code:1CNEW
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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