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Food running out, town
Source: Winnipeg Free Press
Published: June 11th 2008
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Pukatawagan has declared a state of emergency as supplies of food and
other basic necessities dwindle due to a burnt-out railway bridge.
More than 2,600 people in the northwestern Manitoba town and region are
facing shortages of food, baby products, and other essentials, said
Shirley Castel, chief of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation.
The rail line normally used to take these goods 200 km from The Pas to
Pukatawagan was cut off almost three weeks ago when a forest fire
destroyed a wooden railway bridge between Sherridon and Cranberry
Until the track repairs are done, food stores in Pukatawagan have been
flying in food and supplies by plane. And they have increased prices to
cover the higher freight costs.
Food is short, and gasoline is being rationed. "Fuel is only being
allowed for emergency vehicles, and none for community use," Castel
According to Castel, compounding the situation is a disagreement between
the partners who manage the critical transport route to Pukatawagan.
Keewatin Railway Co., a firm owned by a First Nations consortium, owns
and maintains the track, but can't start repairs until partner Hudson
Bay Railway Co. permits a work train to move to the site of the damage,
"The bridge is burnt," said Tom McCahill, general manager for KRC,
explaining that about 80 feet of track across a small creek need
rebuilding. The site will be examined by an engineering firm to estimate
the cost of rebuilding the bridge only when the firm can get to the
location, McCahill said.
In the meantime, KRC can patch the track temporarily, laying lines
across steel culvert and earth fill, he said, estimating it will take a
couple of days.
"They (KRC) are ready to repair the bridge," Castel said, but they still
need HBR's work train to come in from The Pas to the site. HBR is not
allowing any trains to run on the line until an investigation into the
fire is completed, she added.
"The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) are saying the engine caused
the fire," said Castel.
"Because of that now HBR is wanting us to sign a liability release with
them, not holding them responsible for any damages that have occurred
and will occur if any occur in the future. I can't see us signing that,
because it's not our engine, we're not liable for it."
"They have us in a corner here," Castel said. "We're being forced to be
without services. It's been almost three weeks here we've been without a