Mud Lake in dangerous flood situation as residents evacuated


Published on May 17, 2017

The community of Mud Lake was being evacuated early Wednesday morning.

©Labrador Land Protectors/Twitter

MUD LAKE, LABRADOR — Watson Rumbolt was awaiting word this hour (noon Wednesday) that search and rescue would fly out his 30 husky dogs from flood-ravaged Mud Lake, as the waters are too strong to take the dogs out by boat.

Rumbolt said he heard the dogs could be rescued by helicopter and was awaiting official word. Meantime he was trying to secure kennels in  Happy Valley-Goose Bay where evacuees from the community of 46 have been taken.

On Facebook, a member of the SPCA in Labrador was looking for help getting transportation for the dogs once they arrive in Happy Valley Goose Bay and indicated places for them to stay were lined up by their owners.

Rumbolt is among a handful of people who remained behind in the community.

The waters were still rising, he said and a house among the flooded flipped off its foundation.

"It don't look like the water is going to stop. I was hoping it would come unlocked, but that is not happening."

Rumbolt's house is on higher ground but the water has encircled it, though it has not flooded the home.

Power was shut off to the community around mid-morning.

The evacuation began around 4 a.m.

 

Earlier story:

MUD LAKE, LABRADOR - Watson Rumbolt is one of about a dozen people or so left in Mud Lake in central Labrador this morning and is staying behind with two sons to try their save 30 husky dogs from the dangerously rising Churchill River.

He put his wife, daughter, grandkids and daughter in law on the fifth search and rescue chopper to take people out of the community of 46 to Happy Valley-Goose Bay around 6:30 a.m. this morning.

He said some pets were being flown out but he wasn't about his situation because of the number of dogs.

“My two boys got a lot of dogs to look after … We can't leave them,” he said as the devastation began to sink in.

Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Eddie Joyce said at 10:45 a.m. that Newfoundland Power will be cutting the power off to the community in the next hour and that 11 people remain in the in Mud Lake as of that time.

Officials from Fire and Emergency Services and the Department of Transportation and Works' water resources are flying over an ice jam on the Churchill River as of this time (10:45 a.m.) to assess the situation and if anythng can be done to release the jam. Crews were to go up at 2 p.m. but that will be reassessed depending on the outcome of this morning's mission.

Some 27 people were registered in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and 11 remained in Mud Lake as of this hour.

Rumbolt's house is on high land and the water was starting to rush in around 6:30 a.m. and he was expecting the house to be flooded at any time.

“It's bad everybody is pretty shook up — people is losing their homes,” he said.

“Homes that's flooded got three feet of water in them and halfway up their windows.

The 38-year resident of the community said there's never been anything close from high spring water levels.

“There's people here for 80 years and they've never seen water like this. There's no doubt that is where it is coming,” he said of the Muskrat Falls hydro project.

Tuesday evening, Transportation and Works closed Mud Lake Road, across the river where people leave their vehicles. Those vehicles are now underwater.

Rumbolt is determined to stay as long as he can and he and his sons were trying to make up leashes to get their dogs in his speedboat around 6:30 a.m. this morning.

He said however, the flood waters are strong and he's not sure about getting the boat out.

As he talked to The Telegram this morning (Wednesday) the devastation was hitting him.

“The hardest is losing everything. Everything you worked for is gone. Hopefully the Newfoundland government will see what they are doing to the people of Labrador. ... Just for the almighty dollar, people's lives turned upside down. How are we supposed to start over?

Rumbolt said the family had his four grandkids — one of the children is a year old — up at 1:30 a.m. to wait for the choppers.

“It's kind of nerve wracking to me and it's only just setting in ... the water is running is so fast it's like you are out in a river.

Officials from Municipal Affairs and Environment, Fire and Emergency Services are assisting in co-ordinating response efforts.

The department said it is working with the affected residents to offer help.

Evacuation operations began at 4 a.m. this morning. More than 25 people requested immediate evacuation and were airlifted via a helicopter. A bus is on standby at the airport to take evacuees to a reception centre set up at the Happy Valley-Goose Bay Arena, which is being co-ordinated by the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour, the department said.

The Red Cross is also on site and assisting in responding.

As of 6 a.m., three trips of residents were evacuated to Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

 About approximately six to eight homes affected, the department said.

Joyce said the flooding is not connected to the hydroelectric project.

"I am pretty confident it has nothing to do with Muskrat Falls," he said.

Government offiicials started monitoring the danger Tuesday night and an emergency plan kicked into gear in the early hours.

The Salvation Army is helping people and most have found accommodations, Joyce said.

As for whether the residents will be helped with the loss of property and homes, Joyce said it's too early to tell. The emphasis now is making sure people and their pets are safe, he said.

A helicopter was on site at around 10:30 a.m. picking up more people.