A man carries a bag of clothing before leaving his home as floodwaters from the Saint John River continue rising in Grand Lake, N.B. on Wednesday, May 2, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Residents of an island isolated by New Brunswick flood helped by “Uber Rob”

FREDERICTON — Flood-weary residents of New Brunswick’s Darlings Island are praising the efforts of a man they’ve dubbed “Uber Rob.”

“He’s our saviour,” Patty Johnston said as she stood in the rain, waiting to cross choppy, debris-filled waters to get to her home.

The only road to the island near Saint John has been submerged by the flood waters of the Kennebecasis River, forcing residents to make the trip to and from their homes by boat.

While many people are using canoes and kayaks, Rob Dekany has been ferrying seven passengers at a time to and from the island since Monday, and refuses to accept any payment.

“As you can see I’ve got a bunch of good people here and thought I’d give a hand in good faith and as a Good Samaritan,” Dekany said as he prepared to take another load of people to the island.

“Everybody seems pretty happy. It makes me pretty happy.”

He’s been making the trip a few times an hour to get people off the island in the mornings, then returning them each afternoon and evening.

Dekany said the profits he makes from a lucrative worm business allow him to give back to the community.

Chris Calder said that without the use of Dekany’s larger boat, many of the residents wouldn’t be able to make the trip.

“Everybody on the island is so appreciative of him. Otherwise we really wouldn’t be able to get back and forth,” she said.

There’s even a make-shift sign at the edge of the water that says “Uber Rob” and lists the hours he’s operating. It also provides a phone number in case an emergency trip is required.

Johnston said a Facebook group had been established for Darlings Island residents, with an effort to raise money to give Dekany to at least to pay for his gas and time.

Boats are the only way to get to most of the homes and cottages affected by the floods in New Brunswick in recent days.

Dekany said anyone using a boat needs to have good knowledge of the area, and should have a depth-finder as well as someone watching for debris.

The Fisheries Department was using boats Thursday to patrol Grand Lake and the various communities that surround it, as they looked for anyone who needed to be evacuated to safety.

About a dozen cottages, were half submerged in water, while sheds, propane tanks and other items bobbed in the water or hit the shore with each wave.

Heavy rain overnight only added to the misery of people sandbagging their homes in an effort to hold back the rising waters in the southern half of the province.

In Grand Bay-Westfield, Kathy Gilmore and a group of neighbours were filling sandbags to protect her home.

The water was still a few feet away from her foundation, but she didn’t know how much higher it would rise.

“I’ve heard so many numbers,” she said. “It could be another three feet.”

The Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton, N.B., has been closed to traffic because flood waters have crossed the four-lane highway in the Jemseg area.

At the Steamer Stop Inn in the Village of Gagetown, owner Brent Dawson was closely watching the rising level of the Saint John River.

While the original part of the inn — built in 1910 — was still dry, water had gotten into a newer wing, flooding some meeting rooms.

Geoffrey Downey of the Emergency Measures Organization said the river hit 5.34 metres above sea level in Saint John — water levels not seen since 1973 — and will likely exceed that on Saturday when forecasts say it could reach 5.8 metres.

Downey said the rising Saint John River is causing more people to evacuate in areas stretching from Fredericton south to Saint John, where the situation is expected to worsen in the coming days.

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