News / Edmonton

'I wanted her to not feel alone': Alberta official helps flood victim in the wrong Beaumont

With flood waters rising, a worried mom in Texas accidentally calls Beaumont, Alberta for help—but gets it despite the mix-up.

When Shiva Shunmagam, communications officer for the town of Beaumont, Alberta, got a plea for help for Beaumont, Texas, he responded anyway. Uploaded by: Boyd, Alex

Tim Potter / For Metro

When Shiva Shunmagam, communications officer for the town of Beaumont, Alberta, got a plea for help for Beaumont, Texas, he responded anyway. Uploaded by: Boyd, Alex

A case of identical town names and similar Facebook pages connected two strangers from opposite sides of the border during a terrifying time.

A woman from Arlington, Texas mistook the Facebook page for Alberta’s Beaumont Firehall for that of Beaumont, Texas this week. Frantic to get help for her daughter and grandchildren trapped in their home by riding waters from Tropical Storm Harvey, she reached out with a simple message Tuesday:

“Terrell houses are flooded. Need help."

Shiva Shunmagam, communications officer for the town of Beaumont, just outside Edmonton, saw the message at 3:24 p.m. Seated in his office, almost 4,000 kilometres from Houston, he didn't hesitate to respond, offering to help.

First, he got in touch with the daughter in Beaumont, Texas—whose phone was about to die—and then got on the phone to her local fire department.

Then, he called the worried mother back and told her the tale of two Beaumonts.

“She paused, she was surprised," he told Metro Tuesday. "I think that's when I created a trust with her and her mood was more lighter because of all the distress that she was going through I think that was her stress-buster for a moment and funny moment for her."  

Shiva Shunmagam is the communications officer for the town of Beaumont, Alberta.

Tim Potter/For Metro

Shiva Shunmagam is the communications officer for the town of Beaumont, Alberta.

The daughter, along with her three kids and partner, remained stuck in their house as the ankle-deep water started to rise.

Shunmagam checked in with her every hour as the family moved from their house to a parking lot on higher ground, all the while keeping the Texas fire department updated on their situation.

“I could sense it in her voice that she was worried and I wanted her to not feel alone," he said. "I wanted to be with her and provide moral support so that's what I did.”

Shunmagam said it didn’t matter where the call came from he felt it was his job to help.

“When you have a person and a cry for help coming... That is a distress call, that's a call for help and I took it serious and you have to respond to the events in a responsible and timely fashion so I was glad I was able to do that and help her see through things.”

Shunmagam confirmed that the daughter, her partner and three children were safe and had found shelter with other evacuees in the Beaumont, Texas civic centre.

“I would like to see them in the future and happy and probably we will send some kind of love from Alberta,” he laughed.

He said they might send over some local goodies as a gesture of support from their sister town.

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