Dorian evacuees praise volunteers as emergency shelters close

Emergency shelters in the Halifax area were winding down Monday after hosting dozens of people displaced by Dorian at a moment’s notice during the height of the powerful storm.

The Canadian Red Cross was operating several emergency shelters for those impacted by the storm, including those whose homes were deemed unsafe by the municipality.

More than 125 evacuees made use of the shelter at the Canada Games Centre in Clayton Park. The facility was also being used as a comfort centre on Monday.

Katlyn Pettipas, 24, said she was inside her apartment on Tobin Street in Halifax when the gusty winds started lashing the building on Saturday. She said the power went out and the fire alarm went off.

“Then firefighters showed up and said, ‘You need to evacuate the building. Part of your roof just blew off,'” said Pettipas, adding that tenants were then ushered onto a Halifax Transit bus.

“I was kind of in shock… There were some who were kind of upset and nervous, but to be honest, everyone really came together as a community. There were cats on the bus. Everybody was looking out for each other.”

Dorian made landfall in Halifax shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday as a post-tropical storm, but had previously been a Category 2 hurricane with wind gusts of 141 km/h hitting parts of Nova Scotia.

Katlyn Pettipas says she had to leave her home at a moment’s notice after the roof of her apartment on Tobin Street was damaged in the storm. (Aly Thomson/CBC)

Pettipas commended the volunteers at the shelter, and said her stay was very comfortable. She said pets were even accommodated in a private room in large crates.

“Everyone was super compassionate and understanding,” she said. “I’m really thankful.”

Sandy Christie of the Canadian Red Cross said people from all walks of life made use of the shelter, including refugees.

People were given cots to sleep on, pillow sand blankets, as well as three meals a day. Stuffed animals were distributed to children.

More than 125 made use of the emergency shelter at the Canada Games Centre after being displaced by Dorian. (Aly Thomson/CBC)

Christie said there were a lot of emotions circulating in the makeshift safe haven, especially when people first arrived.

“As you can imagine, it’s a difficult living situation when you’re sharing a room with 17 to 20 other people,” she said.

“It’s a trauma, like any situation where you’re take out of your safe comfort zone and put into an unknown situation… People didn’t know what was happening to their homes, what was going on with their loved ones.”

But people came together and comforted each other, she added.

“As hard as it was, as usual, our community comes together,” said Christie.

Two volunteers from The Salvation Army serve lunch to people at the emergency shelter at the Canada Games Centre on Monday. (Aly Thomson/CBC)

 

Capt. Jamie Locke of The Salvation Army said his organization has been providing food for people across the municipality, with more than 600 meals distributed so far.

Locke said there have been many stories emerging from the shelters, but he has been particularly impressed with one demographic: the children.

“To see the kids and their resiliency, trying to have a little bit of fun, that’s been quite encouraging,” said Locke, standing in front of a Salvation Army food truck that was serving up hot dogs, cookies, fruit and cold drinks.

“It’s amazing to see what a smile on a child’s face can do to everyone around them.”

Vinod Bachhao is very thankful for the work of the volunteers at the emergency shelter. (Aly Thomson/CBC)

Vinod Bachhao, 30, came to the shelter after being evacuated from his apartment in Fairview. He said his stay at the Canada Games Centre was “wonderful.”

“I am so very thankful for everything they have done,” said Bachhao, a PhD student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

“It’s been a humbling experience.”

All emergency shelters operated by the Canadian Red Cross closed on Monday, but some were still being used as comfort centres.

The status of the shelters and comfort centres were being assessed on an ongoing basis, the municipality said on its website.

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