Homeowners compensated 2 years after Oliver slide

Two years after a dam breach caused a mudslide that destroyed several homes near Oliver, B.C., property owners have received compensation for their losses.
A house is damaged by a landslide as water continues to rush down the mountain near Oliver, B.C. in June, 2010. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Two years after a dam breach caused a mudslide that destroyed several homes near Oliver, B.C., property owners have received compensation for their losses.

Five homes were destroyed, as well as several vineyards and orchards, when the dam on Testalinden reservoir failed, causing a slide that pulled down heavy mud, trees and boulders.

"It was big, horrible. It sounded like a plane. We didn't know what was happening, we just had to run because we didn't know how big it was or what it was. That was the thing — the unknown. We didn't know what it was, or why," said homeowner Hardeep Khela.

The impact knocked houses from their foundations and covered farmland in metres of cement-like mud, leaving some homeless and others without their livelihoods.

Khela's family lost 13 acres of cherry, peach and apple orchards.

"Our house is just a few feet from the mudslide, so we didn't know if our house will be there when we go back," said Khela. "I took my kids and my husband's elderly parents from the house. I just drove away."

Now, after two years negotiating with lawyers, insurance companies and the provincial government, nine of the original 11 claims have been settled and the two remaining claims are close to reaching resolution, according to the Ministry of Justice.

It was a relief, said Khela, as people now have the money they need to rebuild their homes and their livelihoods.

"Just to get the land back where it was, how it was before the slide, that will take I don't know how many years. Because it's not the topsoil that's needed to grow trees and plants. You don't see any grass on the mudslide area."

Khela and her family replanted cherry trees this spring, but she worries their land will never be the same.