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Belongings retrieval in restricted neighbourhoods begins June 8

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Belongings retrieval in restricted neighbourhoods begins June 8

RMWB Emergency Management Director Bob Couture announces the property viewing plan for damaged neighbourhoods on June 3, 2016 // Chris Vandenbreekel - Harvard Broadcasting

The RMWB has announced the details of their property viewing program for damaged and destroyed homes.

The program will see Team Rubicon, a US-based team of disaster relief specialists, work with residents of destroyed homes to sift through rubble for personal belongings.

Emergency Management Director Bob Couture said the process would begin on June 8 for Abasand, Beacon Hill, and Waterways, while other damaged neighbourhoods will be able to begin on June 5.

Couture said residents would be able to accompany Team Rubicon into the neighbourhoods and instruct the specialists on which belongings to search for. The residents will be able to stand in the street while the sifting is done, and they’ll have to wear protective equipment like long sleeves, gloves, masks, and eyewear.

Residents can book an appointment to do so through the RMWB PULSE line at 780-743-7000.

Asked why residents couldn’t sift through the rubble themselves, Couture emphasized the danger of doing so.

“There’s nails, broken glass,” he said. “It’s extremely dangerous.”

This will be Team Rubicon’s first Canadian operation. The group was formed after the Haiti earthquake, and members train extensively in safety procedures when it comes to disaster relief. The training includes proper use of PPE, decontamination procedures, and how to safely sift through the rubble.

Residents whose homes were undamaged in the restricted neighbourhoods will also be able to retrieve belongings as of June 8. To do so they simply have to prove their residence to security at the checkpoint into their neighbourhood. Couture said the situation would be monitored closely by security and RCMP to ensure nobody stays.

Yesterday the date was said to be June 10, but crews were able to apply tacifier coating faster than expected, which pushed the dates up.

Team Rubicon Canada’s Paul Hassanally said they will try to group the requests for visits together by address to make cleanup by municipal crews easier to manage.

“When we go in and sift through, it disturbs that (tacifier) coating,” he said. “After we leave they have to re-apply it, so just for the sake of efficiency we’re going to try and cluster and group the requests.”

Team Rubicon USA’s Bob Obernier said this will be the second time the organization has dealt with tacifier once before, and they’re in close contact with OHS to ensure they’re meeting every safety standard.

The organization currently has 10 staff on the ground in Fort McMurray, with another 15 expected to arrive in the coming days. Hassanally said they’re not sure how many requests they’ll be able to handle each day, because it will depend on the pattern and spread of the requests.


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