A family in Surrey says they are lucky, and grateful, to be alive after a simple change in routine spared them from being crushed by a collapsing roof Friday.

At around 6 p.m. PT almost 5,000 shingles left on the roof by contractors came crashing down into the townhouse.

Mergstab Berhane, standing in the entrance way to his home, pointed to where the stairs to the second floor used to be: "You can see the devastation in here," he said.

At the time of the collapse, Berhane's wife and three children were at home, in the kitchen. He says it is a miracle she changed their usual routine that day and that they weren't in the upstairs bathroom, where the bathtub was crushed.

Berhane family, Surrey, B.C. - roof collapse

Mergstab Berhane says a change in routine may have saved the lives of his wife and three children. If they had been taking the usual bathtime, they would have been crushed by the collapsing roof. (CBC)

"Usually she gives them a bath at six o'clock. That day, she gave them at four. If she'd done it the same way, I would have lost my three children and my wife at the same time," he said.

His wife, Netsanet, said she thought the collapse was an earthquake. "What do I remember? That terrifying noise," she said.

The Berhanes rent, and have no insurance to cover the loss of their belongings.

"It's hard. All the routine's changed... Who's gonna be responsible for all our stuff? I don't have anything... our kids don't have anything," she said.

Berhane family, Surrey, B.C. - roof collapse

The Berhanes feel lucky, and grateful, to be alive after the roof of their rented Surrey townhome collapsed Friday. (CBC)

The family is sharing one bedroom together right now, staying temporarily with friends.

"Thank God, at least we have that. It's not the luxury things now, it's safety. It's my kids' safety," she said.

The roofing company and the buildings strata council are arguing over who's at fault. The roofing company believes the roof was structurally damaged to begin with, and the strata council has called in engineers to figure out who was at fault.

The roofing company has offered to pay for necessities, but it could be months before the townhouse is fixed.

Netsanet however, does not think she can live in the home again.

"No, I can't. I wish I could live outside forever," she said.

In the meantime, Berhane says the family is mostly thankful for the time they have together.

"It could have been worse. I'm grateful they are still alive," he said.

With files from the CBC's Deborah Goble