Anxious residents of a town on Newfoundland's west coast learned details Thursday of how officials are dealing with landslides that continue to put their community at risk.
"This is an active slide," said Fred Hollett, director of Newfoundland and Labrador's emergency measures organization, describing dramatic erosion on a cliff that claimed a bungalow on Wednesday.
Engineers made a diversion to the Northern Peninsula Highway overnight, and are currently planning another temporary route to keep traffic on the regional highway moving.
Hollett and others met Thursday afternoonto learnhow engineers are dealing with a slide that is expected to wreak havoc for days to come.
Residents have been told to expect more significant damage. A series of landslides since Sunday have taken away thousands of tonnes of clay-based soil, as well as several backyard sheds.
"We expect to see some houses go, some sheds go… We have yet to move to what we call the recovery phase," Hollett said.
Hydro crews have been rerouting power lines, for fear that a subsequent landslide will pull utility poles into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
On Wednesday, traffic was backed up for hours on either end of Daniel's Harbour, as officials closed a section of the highway. A series of slides had crept closer to the safety zone that officials had marked on the highway.
"The Northern Peninsula was cut off, totally, so we had to put alternative measures in place immediately," said Hollett, adding that work has started on a better temporary route.
Still to be determined are plans for dealing with residents who live near the landslide zone.
Using a bulldozer, crews knocked out a rudimentary bypass late Wednesday to accommodate a backlog of vehicles and then transport trucks.
Traffic wasmoving slowly on Thursday, as the temporary bypass— which runs parallel to the existing highway— consists of loose gravel.
The community of about 300 has been reeling as slides chewed away at the cliff that lines much of Daniel's Harbour.
Abe Payne, who was forced to evacuate his home earlier this week, described as gut-wrenching the decision to leave thehouse he built 32 years ago.
"Everything's up in the air right now. But, you know, everybody's taking it in perspective, and I guess when you sit back and look at it, it could have been worse," Payne said.
"It could have happened overnight when somebody was in there and we could have had deaths."
Hollett noted thatthis is the first time emergency measures officials have dealt with such a slidein Newfoundland and Labrador.
A landslide last October swept away tonnes of soil, forcing the evacuation of four houses and one business.
The cliff stabilized over the winter, but thawing soil in recent weeks has been cited as contributing to the latest slides.
Scientists have noted that the cliff— based not in the bedrock commonly seen across Newfoundland but in clay— was heavy at the top, and eroded at the bottom.