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Cleanup, damage assessment begins in Atlantic Canada after torrential rains


October 12, 2016   by The Canadian Press


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SYDNEY, N.S. – Communities in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are facing a costly and lengthy cleanup from widespread flooding damage after a storm brought torrential rain to the region over the long weekend.

A vehicle is submerged in a residential area of Sydney, N.S., Tuesday, Oct.11, 2016. Thousands were still without power in Nova Scotia and some communities in Newfoundland and Labrador were under a state of emergency Tuesday after torrential rain and strong winds blasted the region. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Vaughan Merchant

Premiers in both provinces were scheduled to tour areas damaged in the storm, as power crews worked to restore electricity and schools remained closed in some areas.

The Cape Breton-Victoria School Board announced that students from Brookland Elementary school in Sydney are being temporarily relocated to another school due to water damage to the building.

Parts of the Sydney area received more than 200 millimetres of rain.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, work was continuing to reopen the Trans-Canada Highway in Terra Nova National Park, where a section of the highway had washed away, cutting off southeastern Newfoundland from the rest of the Island.

Cecil Clarke, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, said in an interview that it is the worst rain-related disaster to hit his community in his lifetime.

He said it has severely damaged dozens of roads, taken out municipal bridges, destroyed parks and caused extensive damage to flooded homes in several communities in the regional municipality.

Related: Heavy rains and strong winds wreaking havoc in the Maritimes

The water supply has remained intact, but there has been damage to waste water and a major water main break, the mayor said.

Clarke said the municipality will be applying for disaster relief assistance and he is confident the city has easily reached the minimum $3 million threshold in damage that would qualify it for the relief.

He said many homeowners don’t have insurance and will be waiting to hear what kind of disaster relief they can receive from the province.

“We do not want to have mildew and mould issues going forward. We’re going to undertake a major cleanup to get things out of peoples’ homes as quickly as possible,” he said.

“We’re mindful there are people without resources, and winter is coming.”

Al Hawkins, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Transport Minister, visited communities on Tuesday and after assessing damage said he is opening talks with Ottawa to seek damage assistance.

He says roads have been destroyed, bridges wiped out and a number of homes have suffered extensive flooding.

Clarke said the weather, which was associated with the remnants of Hurricane Matthew, is a reminder that climate change is contributing to more intense storms on the East Coast.

“The intensity of weather … is definitely changing. We’re feeling that as an island in the North Atlantic. The intensity of weather, whether it’s winter or rain events, it impacts our public works infrastructure heavily,” he said.

“The severity of weather has increased and this event is no different.”

He said the heavy rain caught people off guard, as most people were expecting that after weeks of dry weather the rainfall would be absorbed without difficulty.

– by Michael Tutton in Halifax.