‘It’s frightening’: Cape Breton homeowners face monumental cleanup following storm
Published Thursday, October 13, 2016 8:31PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, October 14, 2016 9:07AM ADT
The magnitude of Monday’s record-setting storm is only just beginning to be felt by people in Cape Breton facing a monumental cleanup.
On Thursday, homeowners entered the temporary comfort centre at Centre 200 in Sydney, looking for both help and answers.
“I'm 61 years old and I don't know where I’m going. It's frightening. It's frightening for everyone that's affected,” says homeowner Anna Mae Muise.
Muise is unable to stay in her home because the floodwaters contained oil and sewage. People that live in her Sydney neighbourhood fear their houses will have to be demolished.
“You have oil soaking into the ground and you see oil slicks floating by in the water and you walk into your home and the walls have been soaking in oil, sewage for almost two days, up to the ceiling,” says homeowner Terry Drohan. “I'm not going to bring my family back into that situation.”
Many roadways in Sydney are lined with ruined furniture and other items, as people come to grips with the prospect that much of the damage may not be covered by insurance.
At a media briefing on Thursday, the mayor said there's help coming for those hardest hit.
“They are the impacted areas that we are dealing with,” says Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke. “On what the individual needs are, those who can't be in their homes, and that's going to take professional teams to deal with that.”
A helpline was also announced to assist residents with any questions they might have, along with $1.5 million in emergency funding for people in immediate need of shelter, food and clothing.
“This is not going to be a long-term solution,” says Muise. “This is going to be a short-term solution to get people out of homes that are contaminated with mud, oil, sewage, slime and everything else.”
The cost of the cleanup and how it will be paid for is still a work in progress.
“We are going to respond in a way that is going to help those people out as best we can,” says Zach Churchill, the minister responsible for EMO. “Right now, we need to keep an eye on the situation, analyze it as best we can, and that will help identify how we move forward.”
Work crews in Sydney are also cleaning up Brookland Elementary, which on Monday was submerged under 4.5 feet of water.
Most students have returned to class, but some schools were closed Thursday due to power outages.
"I can't go to work. I've had to stay home and babysit. I'm keeping them as occupied as I can,” says parent Jolene Gouthro. “But they'd really like to get back to school."
It is estimated that the damage at Brookland Elementary will take months to fix, as the entire bottom floor needs to be remediated.
"What will not be saved is any paper products, any porous products, and drywall, these kinds of things that absorb water,” says Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board director of operational services Paul Oldford.
There are also contamination concerns at the school due to floodwaters being polluted by oil and sewage.
"Those concerns are not great, but until we get sampling back, we don't know for certain,” adds Oldford. “We are engaging environmental consultants as well to make sure that any health and safety aspects of the building are very carefully dealt with."
At an emergency meeting Wednesday night, parents of Brookland students were told their children would be sent to Harbourside Elementary and Shipyard Elementary for the time being.
At Brookland, desks and books ruined by floodwaters had to be thrown away, so a donation centre has been set up at Sydney Academy for people who want to give school supplies or clothing for students.
Students from Brookland are scheduled to go back to class at their interim schools next week.
Oldford says he is optimistic students will be back at Brookland Elementary before June 2017.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore and Ryan MacDonald.