News

Premier pledges support

By Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks during a news conference on Wednesday at the main fire hall in Brantford. Wynne visited the city after officials declared a state of emergency and ordered the evacuation of 2,200 homes in several neighbourhoods as rising levels of the Grand River  threatened widespread flooding. (Brian Thompson/The Expositor)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks during a news conference on Wednesday at the main fire hall in Brantford. Wynne visited the city after officials declared a state of emergency and ordered the evacuation of 2,200 homes in several neighbourhoods as rising levels of the Grand River threatened widespread flooding. (Brian Thompson/The Expositor)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne promised support to the city on Wednesday evening ahead of a second surge of flood water expected to hit Thursday morning.

Wynne cancelled her plans in order to make a quick stop at the main firehall on Clarence Street.

"We are following this very, very closely," she said of the flood threat that forced the evacuation of several thousand people from homes nearest the Grand River. "The fire chief, the mayor and first responders have been on this all day. The community has pulled together and is doing a wonderful job making sure people are safe."

Wynne said she took a brief walk along the river late Wednesday afternoon where the water remained high and moving quickly.

She said Ministry of Transportation officials would be in the city on Thursday to check on the condition of bridges, and dikes would be inspected for potential damage. The Ministry of the Environment will also continue to work with staff from the Grand River Conservation Authority to monitor the river flows, Wynne said.

"Infrastructure is one of the big concerns," said the premier. "We will do everything we can to support the efforts here."

When asked whether the province would be providing funding to the city for damage caused by the flooding, Wynne said it is too soon to say exactly what kind of help is required.

"We want to respond to the actual needs rather than imposing supports that aren't needed," she said.

"There are disaster relief programs. There are different ways people need to be supported."

Deputy fire chief Andrew Lillico said the city "wasn't out of the woods yet," with high river flows expected through the evening and a second surge of water expected as the Nith River feeds into the Grand, making the ice unpredictable.

"This secondary spike will be smaller," said Joe Farwell, chief administrative officer with the GRCA. "But because water levels are higher we're still going to see an impact."

Brantford Mayor Chris Friel said the Lorne Bridge and BSAR bridge will remain closed until the Ministry of Transportation completes its structural reviews, and evacuation orders for residents will remain in effect until at least noon on Thursday.

Maria Visocchi, the city's director of communications, said about 100 people used emergency shelters provided at Woodman Community Centre and Assumption College. When told they wouldn't be able to return home Wednesday night, about half of them found other accommodation.

Visocchi said that the shelters were overwhelmed by generosity shown by people who provided displaced residents with food, water, blankets and sheets, and even toys for children.

Friel said he is unsure how many homes were damaged by flooding but assessments will be made over the coming days.

"It's all part of the recovery."

mruby@postmedia.com

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