Canada: Border closing won't block aid to small Alaska town

AP News
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Posted: Apr 05, 2015 3:22 AM

HYDER, Alaska (AP) — Canada has closed a border crossing next to a tiny southeastern Alaska town during the overnight hours, but border officials say residents will still have access to emergency medical care.

Canadian officials began closing the road linking Hyder with nearby Stewart, British Columbia, on Wednesday, CoastAlaska News reported. Hyder residents depend on Stewart for health care and mainland road access.

The cost-cutting measure locks the border gate from midnight to 8 a.m.

Hyder, which is about 75 miles northeast of Ketchikan, has fewer than 100 residents. Stewart is a few miles away from Hyder and has a population of about 500.

Both U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Alaska state Rep. Dan Ortiz said they have contacted Canadian officials to argue against the closure.

While an initial report said the move means Hyder residents will no longer have nighttime access to emergency medical in Stewart, the Canadian Border Services Agency said emergency responders still have 24-hour access as do Hyder residents by telephoning border services.

"CBSA would like to assure members of the surrounding communities that there are procedures in place to ensure access for emergency services ... in the event of a situation such as a medical emergency, natural disaster, or if there is risk to critical infrastructure," agency spokeswoman Jennifer Bourque said.

She told The Associated Press that emergency agencies have around the clock access to the border, and the agency has provided "24 hour telephone clearance procedures which can be accessed by local residents, in case of emergency."