Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Flood waters down in much of New Brunswick

Updated Mon. May. 5 2008 11:15 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

The sheer force of the St. John River stopped New Brunswick's famous Reversing Falls, close to where the river empties into the Bay of Fundy, but the worst of the flooding appears to be over.

New Brunswick is believed to have the strongest tides in the world. But the Reversing Falls -- where water flows backward at high tide -- were stopped at least once as the flood's crest moves downriver to Saint John.

"There is an incredible amount of water coming down ... we are stable right now (but) the river is at flood stage," Nancy Moar, a spokesperson for the city of Saint John, told CTV.ca.

About 100 homes in the city and surrounding area have been damaged by flooding, and officials have warned residents that the water may not recede for a few days.

"We do have a tidal issue and tides in the harbour are going to continue to make it difficult for the water to run out," Grand Bay-Westfield Fire Chief Dan McCoy told CTV Atlantic. "People have to remember that this is going to take the next 48 to 72 hours."

Moar said an especially high tide of 8.7 metres was expected on Monday at midnight, but that would be considered a relatively minor factor in the flooding.

The city has declared Saint John's water supply, which comes from lakes, to be safe. But those relying on well water are told to boil their water until they've had their well tested.

A boil order remains for seven communities in the province's northwest.

More than 300 homes remain without power. NB Power said those seeking reconnection must first have their home inspected by a licenced electrical contractor.

Meanwhile, Andy Morton, deputy director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, warned drivers to stay off roads affected by high water levels.

"People have to stay on alert for water on roads and wildlife forced on to the roads," he told CTV Newsnet.

Morton said the next big task will be cleaning up from the damage, something he expected would take weeks.

Provincial assistance

New Brunswickers affected by the flooding can apply to a government program to help offset damage to their homes or businesses.

The assistance plan was announced Sunday by N.B. Premier Shawn Graham, and is for damage that is not covered by regular insurance. Many people whose homes are located in flood zones often can't get conventional insurance because of the elevated risk.

The plan will pay for structural damage repair and the cost of essential items, such as appliances, clean-up and food.

Highlights of the financial relief plan include:

For homeowners, the deductible is $1,000, down from $5,000 in the previous plan;
For business owners, the deductible is $5,000, down from $10,000; and
The deductibles will be waived for those on social assistance.
Maximum aid is $80,000 for homeowners, and business owners can be compensated 100 per cent for the first $100,000 and 75 per cent beyond that.

New Brunswickers have begun with the government to apply for financial aid and to have health and safety teams sent to their homes.

Safety teams will check electrical and gas systems, which must be done before clean-up work can begin. The government will not charge any fees to reconnect hydro, test water wells or do electrical inspections.

A flood relief hotline has been set up at 1-888-298-8555. There is also a website, www.snb.ca/emo, for New Brunswickers with Internet access to apply for aid and safety inspections.

The total cost, which is yet to be determined, will be shared between the provincial and federal governments, although the exact formula is yet to be worked out.


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