October 14, 2016 - 5:39 AM
As Cape Breton and Newfoundland residents begin the unfamiliar work of struggling to recover from flooding damage brought by torrential Thanksgiving rainfall, the hope is that charities, governments and insurance companies will move quickly.
"This is all new to us and I'm hoping they're going to be on the ball and help will come quickly," said Tracey Drew of Morrisville, N.L.
While homeowners like Drew anxiously await word on financial aid from official sources, it's largely neighbours who have helped start the backbreaking work of cleaning and disinfecting damaged floors, hefting ruined appliances onto lawns and — off the south coast of Newfoundland — using small motorboats to run a noose around a beached building and tow it back home.
For Drew, the kindness of friends help buoy her spirits amidst a personal disaster that began with a terrifying rush of water in the middle of Monday night.
Over 200 millimetres of rain sent cascades of water rushing down hills, pouring into foundations and destroying basements and ground floors in a matter of hours when the remnants of Hurricane Matthew collided with colder air from another weather system.
Like many others hit by the storm, the 47-year-old mail carrier says she couldn't afford extensive insurance coverage to deal with a flooding disaster she never anticipated.
"Surrounding communities have really stepped up and are helping us significantly ... (friends) came at 8 a.m. this morning and in a few hours they've completed gutted my basement," she said.
As she spoke, men from the neighbouring town of Milltown were power spraying a coating of mud off the floor and heaving rubbish onto her lawn.
The day before, boats from the First Nations community of Conne River had brought loads of water and food across the bay. That was also the day that six Conne River residents fastened old ocean buoys to the errant shed and then gently guided it two kilometres back to Morrisville.
In both Cape Breton and Newfoundland, homeowners said help is needed quickly as temperatures start to fall and the season for repairs shortens.
Mel Bryden, 62, of Reserve Mines, N.S., was stunned on Monday evening when his usually dry street near Glace Bay filled with waist-deep water in a matter of hours.
He says he's trying to get an insurance adjuster to assess what he believes will easily be $100,000 in damage.
"We lost everything. We lost our furnace, our furniture, our fridge ... everything," he said in a telephone interview.
Bryden says he has a respiratory illness affected by dampness and urgently needs to find a new place to live.
"The trouble is to find people to help you and look after you from the insurance companies. There's just not enough adjusters," he said.
"It's complete devastation. There's 70 homes on our street and I don't think there's one that didn't get hit. ... This is things we've seen in New Orleans and never expected it in Cape Breton."
Newfoundland Premier Dwight Ball — who has been on the road for two days visiting affected communities — said in a telephone interview that his province has already tallied up at least $10 million in damage to provincial roads and infrastructure and has yet to determine the bills within the towns themselves.
"Time is not on our side. We're in the middle of October and we realize there is a winter coming and we have a lot of work to get done ... as we start preparing the province for the upcoming winter," he said during a telephone interview.
He estimated there are "hundreds" of homes damaged in his province.
"I just left a community ... within the last hour where 70 homes were impacted and earlier today I was in a community with 100 impacted. The personal impact will be very substantial," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality also says hundreds of homes in the area have been damaged, and it is continuing to assess the extent of the damage.
Mayor Cecil Clarke has asked for the province to provide assurances the town will be provided with an initial $1.5 million needed to provide immediate housing to people forced from their homes.
United Way Cape Breton has set up a separate website link for people to donate to help people on the island with expenses related to the flooding.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Thursday after meeting with his cabinet that officials are in the midst of assessing how many people lack insurance and how much municipal damage has occurred.
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016