SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. — The town of Wawa, Ont., will ask the provincial government for tens of millions of dollars in disaster relief funding after heavy rains prompted a state of emergency and forced the evacuation of a nearby Native reserve.
The northern Ontario town is seeking provincial funding for repairs to roads, bridges and other damages caused by heavy rainfall on Thursday.
The municipality of 3,000 has limited financial resources after a tough decade that's seen the loss of major employers such as Algoma Ore and Weyerhaeuser.
During the same time, Wawa lost the ability to tax area power dams. Compensating grants don't match the earlier tax revenue.
"We really don't (have the money)," said Chris Wray, Wawa's chief administrative officer.
"Financially, we're sort of treading water at this point. We've got some reserves. Frankly, we don't have the financial capacity to take care of the repairs that are necessitated from an emergency like this."
The Ontario Disaster Assistance Program, managed by Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, could help "put things back the way they were."
Paperwork is already being prepared for the funding request. It must be received within two weeks. Council must pass a resolution asking for the provincial aid. That's expected to happen early in the week.
Wawa was pelted with an estimated 132 millimetres of rain in less than 24 hours on Thursday.
The heavy rainfall caused creeks and lakes to overflow. Sections of Hwy. 17 north and south of the community were washed out.
The Trans-Canada Highway is still closed. The Northern Lights Motel was destroyed by a sinkhole.
A neighbouring business, Northern Lights Ford, lost a large portion of its parking lot.
An estimated 25 to 30 seniors, mothers with young children and those needing medical attention were evacuated, by helicopter, from the nearby Michipicoten First Nation to Wawa on Saturday.
The road that links the two communities was damaged by water. The evacuees, housed in motels, are expected to stay in Wawa for three to four days. Funding help will be sought from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for their housing costs.