Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sydney flood evacuees return home to devastation

Homes 'unlivable,' neighbourhoods smell of polluted water and furnace oil

By Cassie Williams, CBC News Posted: Oct 12, 2016 2:14 PM AT Last Updated: Oct 12, 2016 5:40 PM AT
As the water recedes in Sydney, N.S., those who fled flooding earlier this week are beginning to return home to mud-stained living rooms, waterlogged vehicles, and neighbourhoods stinking of oil.
Seeing their homes for the first time since record-setting rains devastated the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has been a shock for many. 
Kim Bungay fled the rising waters at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday. By that time the water surrounding her home was waist deep. 
"We didn't think it would come this high. It's never come this high before. We've lived here for 25 years," she said.
On returning to her neighbourhood, the smell of polluted water was overwhelming. 
"The oil smell out here is nuts," said Bungay.

'The water just kept coming'

She said both her vehicles were underwater and are probably writeoffs. She found water pooled in the cupholders of her car. 
Like so many others, Bungay is waiting. Waiting on insurance adjusters to determine where she's covered; waiting on a mechanic to look at her vehicles to determine if they are salvageable. 
"The neighbours are helping each other out as best we can," she said.

Homes 'unlivable'

Robin Nathanson returned to his home for the first time on Wednesday. His wraparound deck was gone, carried away in the flood. He had to use a ladder to get in his front door. 
What he saw inside was shocking. Floodwater had filled his basement to the ceiling and even came up over the cupboards in his kitchen on the main floor. 
"This is unlivable," he said. "I'm just lost right now." 
His furniture on the main floor had floated around and came to rest randomly in pools of dirty, oil-laden water. 
"You walk in and you get a muddy smell. It's an overwhelming smell as soon as you walk in the house," Nathanson told CBC's Maritime Noon
"I can't even describe it. We walked into the house and the first thing you see is just furniture flipped over, and everywhere there's a thick layer of mud all throughout the house and paint's bubbling, drywall's cracking."

Money for repairs isn't there

The damage is devastating, especially for people like Nathanson who are not sure where the money to repair their homes will come from. 
"A lot of people around here, ourselves included, are more or less paycheque to paycheque living. We don't have a tonne of savings to even think about how to begin restoration," he said.
Neither Nathanson nor Bungay have heard much from their respective insurance companies. 
"Most of what I heard is, essentially, because it was rainwater or groundwater, the majority of it won't be covered at all," said Nathanson.
Premier Stephen McNeil said in a news conference Wednesday thatpeople who aren't covered by insurance won't be abandoned. But before determining what help goes where, the province and the municipality have to assess the damage. 
"We as a community will be standing with those families," said McNeil. "Together, we will deal with this issue and get individual properties back again as quickly as possible."
The province is applying for disaster relief money from the federal government to help the community. 

Cape Breton flood damage may not be covered by standard insurance

Coverage depends on how water enters a home and what type of insurance people have

By David Burke, CBC News Posted: Oct 12, 2016 11:56 AM AT Last Updated: Oct 12, 2016 1:05 PM AT
As the water recedes, the headaches are just beginning for Cape Breton homeowners working to figure out whether their home insurance covers flooding. 
Whether or not someone has coverage all depends on how the water entered the home, said Liam Gillis, a lawyer with Sampson MacPhee in Sydney. He specializes in personal injury law and works with clients on insurance claims. 
If water came into a home through a sewer backup or if a sump pump was overwhelmed and could no longer pump water out, the damage might be covered, said Gillis. 

Coverage depends on policy

In most cases, Gillis said, people would have had to add such eventualities to their insurance in order to be covered. 
"I suspect, in this case, around Cape Breton there are many people dealing with sewage backup. I myself am one of them. That's an event that would be covered." 
"If it's seeping through the windows, that's a case where it's likely to be surface water and most basic home insurance policies don't provide coverage for that type of event."  

'It's uninsurable for this'

Curtis Sampson owns a rental property on Mechanic Street in Glace Bay. When flooding started the water flowed like a small river through his company house, a style of home originally built by mining companies to house workers.
"I'm insured for other perils, but not water, not sewer," said Sampson. "The fact that it's a company house and the structure and its value, it's uninsurable for this."  
Sampson has spent the day ripping out walls and flooring. He believes the house, which doesn't have a foundation has been undermined and may be a total loss. 
"I'm hoping there is going to be some kind of a relief fund of some sort that I'll be eligible for. It being a rental and me already having a safe place to live it's not the end of the world."  

Independent assessment a good idea

Gillis said regardless of people's coverage they should get a second opinion on what caused the damage to their home from someone other than their insurance company. 
"It's important I think that you also have it assessed by people independent from the insurance company such as disaster relief companies. It can be very difficult to identify the cause of an event or damage to a property."      

'Most people don't understand their own policies'

He said typically homeowners and their insurance adjusters can work together to reach a settlement. He said lawyers usually only get involved when there's a disagreement about how the damage occurred or the scope of it. 
"At this stage, the most significant thing you see is … most people don't understand their own policies," said Gillis. 
"They're often very complicated, the wording can be very legalese for many people."   

Premier pledges support 

Premier Stephen McNeil was asked Wednesday how the provincial government could help people whose insurance may not cover flooding. He said: "We as a community will be standing with those families." 
"Together, we will deal with this issue and get individual properties back again as quickly as possible," he said. 
The province is applying for disaster relief money from the federal government to help the community.

Brookland Elementary students temporarily relocated after Sydney flood

Record rainfall flooded Sydney school and has forced its temporary closure

CBC News Posted: Oct 12, 2016 7:18 AM AT Last Updated: Oct 12, 2016 2:47 PM AT
Students at Brookland Elementary are being temporarily relocated while officials figure out what the plan is with the flooded school. 
Sydney, N.S., was slammed by the remnants of Hurricane Matthewand a weather system off the coast of the Carolinas.
Thousands of people in Cape Breton could spend 40 hours without electricity as Nova Scotia Power works overtime to reconnect them. 
Brookland Elementary was flooded and it's not clear when it will reopen.
In the meantimes, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board says students in Grade Primary to Grade 3 will be temporarily relocated to Harbourside Elementary and students in Grade 4 and 5 will be temporarily relocated to Shipyard Elementary.
The students from Brookland will still remain with their teachers during the relocations.
"At this point in time we are determining the logistics of transportation and of moving furniture and classroom materials with a view to having the relocation completed within the next week," said Michelle MacLeod, speaking for the school board.
The board has scheduled meetings for parents of the affected schools for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the following locations: 
  • Brookland Elementary parents at Sherwood Park Education Centre cafeteria entrance
  • Harbourside Elementary parents at Harbourside
  • Shipyard Elementary parents at Sherwood Park Education Centre cafeteria entrance
The board said it will provide more information as the situation unfolds.