‘So very frustrated’: Remote B.C. community cut off for 2 weeks with no phone, internet

Residents of the remote coastal B.C. community of Klemtu are venting their frustration at being cut off from the world for nearly two weeks.

Speaking with Global News via satellite phone, resident Lorraine Robinson said the Kitasoo / Xai’xais First Nations community, about 150 kilometres south of Kitimat, lost all telecom service on Dec. 9.

She said since then the community has been completely disconnected from the outside world.

“All services are down, everything. No contact. We can’t contact anybody,” she said. “Land lines, all phones and we have no internet service.

That’s beginning to cause major problems, Robinson said.

Residents are unable to withdraw cash or make payments, are unable to book transit in or out of the community, can’t pay bills or receive funds by direct deposit and some have missed paycheques.

In one case, she said there was a police emergency and locals couldn’t contact the RCMP.

“Our nurses are getting frustrated. They can’t disperse medication because they need to talk to a doctor. We also have a hydro power station. And if that goes out, it’s usually started remotely by internet,” she said.

“They’ve had two windows of opportunity to get into our community, [Thursday and Friday]. I just flew in and it was a beautiful flight, the pilot assured me a helicopter would have made it in.”

Telus, which operates the service in Klemtu, said the outage was caused by a powerful windstorm knocking a satellite dish from its tower on a nearby mountain.

Spokesperson Richard Gilhooey said the company understands residents’ frustrations, but that adverse weather has prevented crews from accessing the site — which he said isn’t as simple as flying in on a sea plane, because it is accessible by helicopter only.

“Obviously, working on these towers is a high risk activity at the best of times, and for safety reasons we have to ensure that we have a break in the weather long enough for us to reach the tower and complete the repair,” he said.

“Whether or not to fly to a site is at the discretion of the helicopter crew, and thus far they have determined that the conditions remain unsafe.”

Gilhooey said Telus has escalated the issue in priority, and is working to bring satellite phones into the community in the interim.

“We’ll do whatever we can to make it right for the community. As soon as the weather allows, our immediate priority will be to fix the tower and restore service to the community,” he said.

Telus did not provide an estimate as to when the repairs might be made.

For Robinson, it can’t come fast enough, with morale flagging as the outage drags on.

“The weather has been good for them to make it. We are hoping for a Christmas blessing as it has been too long, with Christmas in four days.”

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