Katrina catastrophe a warning for Nunavut
The current crisis in New Orleans serves as a warning to all northern communities during emergencies. An effort should be made to ensure the safety of each and every person living in these isolated places.
Individuals, as well as government departments, should take measures to provide adequate care should they become isolated for long periods during inclement weather.
This Arctic climate can at times become very unfriendly and cause terrible problems, such as the 10-day blizzard of 1978. Iqaluit was a much smaller place then, and was not spread out all over the place. During that storm, winds reached 100 km/h and the temperature was -40. It continued for 10 days without let-up but fortunately there was no loss of life.
Storms and blizzards are only some of the problems that can face an isolated community. Aircraft emergencies, power plant failures, major fires, etc. can all pose serious situations that could require evacuation of the entire community, whether it be Iqaluit or one of the many small villages in this region. The same storm of 1978 blew 21 houses away in Pangnirtung.
Without tried and tested programs in each community to deal with such emergencies, the risks are increased. All aspects of such measures should be published and made available to all residents in all communities, so that everyone is aware of his or her role in the event of a catastrophe.
Iqaluit has grown. Should a major storm occur, the residents in the Tundra Valley area, for example, would be at great risk. Those who rely on trucked service for water delivery and sewage pick-up would have a difficult time. There are no large buildings to which people could go for shelter.
All major buildings should be designated as emergency shelters, residents of the community made aware of them, and what shelter they could offer. Individuals would be well-advised to have an adequate supply of emergency rations in their home and perhaps a source of light and heat.
This Arctic land can be very unforgiving. Be prepared!