Friday, May 11, 2018

About 60 soldiers assigned to flood relief in New Brunswick

Engineers deployed from Base Gagetown will help assess damage to roads and bridges, prioritize repairs

Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon · CBC News · Posted: May 11, 2018 12:46 PM AT | Last Updated: 22 minutes ago

About 60 soldiers will provide flood relief support to the New Brunswick government in response to a request from Premier Brian Gallant, the Canadian Armed Forces announced on Friday.

But the troops from the 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown in Oromocto won't be heaving heavy sandbags out of homeowners' yards or doing cleanup work that private companies could be hired to do.

They are army engineers who will assess the damage to roads and bridges from the unprecedented flooding in the southern part of the province, and prioritize next steps.

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The soldiers will advise provincial authorities on mitigation measures and assist in planning and co-ordinating relief efforts.

"I am proud to see our members of the Canadian Armed Forces once again responding to help Canadians in their time of need," Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan said in a statement.

The flooding, which started more than two weeks ago and reached historic levels, has forced more than 1,600 people from their homes and left devastating damage in its wake, including washed-out roads and water-covered bridges.

The Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton was closed for more than a week but reopened Friday morning, with one lane in each direction and reduced speed limits.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was  scheduled to be in Oromocto in late afternoon to visit an incident command post and visit affected communities along the St. John River with the premier.

Gallant announced on Thursday he had requested the Canadian Armed Forces to conduct a reconnaissance mission to determine what, if any, support it could provide now that the floodwaters have started to slowly recede.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed in a tweet Thursday night that the federal government would provide support.

"The Canadian Armed Forces personnel — and this is important, I believe, for New Brunswickers affected by the floods to know — will not engage in post-flooding damage cleanup or other such tasks that would place the Canadian Armed Forces in competition with local industry," he said during an unrelated news conference in Moncton on Friday morning.

The military will not make final determinations as to the "serviceability or safety" of civilian infrastructure either.

That responsibility rests the provincial government, said Gallant.

Rear-Admiral Craig Baines, commander of Joint Task Force, Atlantic, said the mission is "a bit more personal" for the team.

"They're deploying to help their neighbours, and the communities close to where they live."

Many of the members have already been volunteering their evenings and weekends to help, said Baines.

"I'm proud to say that this is simply who they are, and what they do."

About 15 members of the 4 Engineer Support Regiment mobilized Friday morning to assess the damage in Grand Bay-Westfield, near Saint John, along with commanding officer Lt.-Col. Chris Cotton.

A larger group was touring Islandview, west of Fredericton.

Cotton said further military involvement could follow the assessment phase but added he's not in a position to make those kind of promises.

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The Gallant government has faced criticism from some residents and the Opposition for not calling in the military sooner.

But provincial and Emergency Measures Organization officials maintained they had the resources they needed during the flood itself.


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