Barkad Khan wiped away tears Thursday as he made another “frustrating” visit to one of the emergency reception centres set up to help residents from Merritt, B.C., who have been forced from their homes due to unprecedented flooding.
Khan said he and his family, wife Afreen and daughters Mahveen and Mahira, were given just 10 minutes to get out before their home was flooded.
“It’s gone. Under water. Everything gone. I have nothing left. Nothing to go back to,” said Khan, who moved to Merritt in March from Calgary.
Khan has visited the centre in Kamloops, about 100 km from Merritt, each day and has been told repeatedly by officials that he will need to wait for a phone call in order to get any assistance.
“I came here now and you know what he’s saying — if you’re not dying we cannot do anything for you. At least show compassion,” Khan said.
“You have no idea how much we lost. We lost everything. This is wrong.”
Khan said he has had to borrow money from friends and family just to be able to put his family in a hotel and things have become desperate.
“Help us out. For how long can I can borrow money and stay in a hotel? At some point you run out of people you can call,” he said.
“The hardest thing in the world is just asking somebody for help and it breaks your ego. But for the sake of the family and the kids you do these things.”
Khan said they had just enough time to throw a few clothes in a single suitcase and leave.
Inside the reception centre, about 80 people waited patiently to ask for help. Children were crying. One man was carrying his belongings into a black garbage bag.
The B.C. government declared a state of emergency this week after the relentless rain forced rivers over their banks, including the Coldwater River in Merritt. About 2,000 people were originally forced to leave because the flood moved in quickly, although the entire city was later evacuated when the water and sewer treatment plant went off-line.
The City of Merritt was placed on evacuation over the summer because of a wildfire.
Henry Krause was at the centre with his daughter, granddaughter and brother.
“This kind of seems to be adding to the situation. On one hand you’ve got COVID, it leads into wildfires in Merritt and then of course now there’s flooding,” he said.
“We just upped and panicked because we heard the order that there was an overall evacuation in Merritt and we had to get going. Just pack up your essentials, grab what you can on short notice,” he said.
Krause said so far it appears their home is safe and the water, which had been close, was starting to recede.
“Luckily it didn’t rise up enough to swamp the whole place. We’re hoping everything is A-OK. That’s all you can do.”
—Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press