Al­berta town worker helps with Texas flood res­cue from 3,800 km away

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - TIM COOK BEAU­MONT, ALTA. —

Shiva Ku­mar Shun­mugam was wrap­ping up a lazy sum­mer af­ter­noon tend­ing to so­cial me­dia feeds for the Al­berta town of Beau­mont when a strange re­quest came into the fire hall’s Face­book page.

“Ter­rell houses are flood­ing need help,” it said.

Beau­mont, Alta., a town of about 18,000 just south of Ed­mon­ton, doesn’t have a Ter­rell neigh­bour­hood and the area hadn’t seen a drop of rain in al­most a week.

Shun­mugam quickly re­al­ized he was deal­ing with some­one in Beau­mont, Texas, a com­mu­nity not far from Houston, that has a Ter­rell Av­enue and was hit by hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

A woman near Dal­las was seek­ing a res­cue for her daugh­ter’s fam­ily of four who had flood wa­ter rush­ing into their Beau­mont home.

In her fran­tic search for help, the mother mis­tak­enly hap­pened upon the page for the fire depart­ment in Beau­mont, Alta., 3,800 kilo­me­tres away. Shun­mugam swung into ac­tion. “With­out wast­ing time I got in touch with emer­gency ser­vices in Beau­mont, Texas, and they di­rected me to the Beau­mont fire depart­ment in Texas,” he said in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day. “Since they didn’t have much in­for­ma­tion, they were re­ly­ing on me to pro­vide the cor­rect address.”

Shun­mugam was able to link up with the daugh­ter and re­lay the de­tails, but the res­cue was slow in com­ing.

As the day stretched into evening, Shun­mugam stayed in touch with the daugh­ter.

She told him there were snakes and spi­ders seek­ing refuge from the wa­ter in her back­yard. He passed along some help­ful sur­vival tips, such as turn­ing off her phone’s data to pre­serve bat­tery life.

As evening stretched into night, she told Shun­mugam her fam­ily was go­ing to try to drive out of the neigh­bour­hood. Shun­mugam got in touch with the au­thor­i­ties in Texas who ad­vised against that, so the fam­ily pulled over in a park­ing lot and waited.

From there, the two lost touch.

“Trust me, I didn’t have sleep all night think­ing about and pray­ing about her and the other peo­ple who are go­ing through a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion,” Shun­mugam said.

As night stretched into morn­ing, he fi­nally heard back from the woman’s mother.

The fam­ily was safe at an emer­gency shel­ter.

“She thanked me for that and she’s at Beau­mont Civic Cen­ter right now,” he said. “I think it is a good way to see that kind­ness ex­ists and we should live by that code of lov­ing thy neigh­bour and help­ing them.”


Shiva Shun­mugam, com­mu­ni­ca­tions co-or­di­na­tor with the Town of Beau­mont, Alta.

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