An "eclectic" group of donors from as far away as Denmark and China have come together to contribute $108,000 to the United Way in Cape Breton, in order to help people with basic needs in the wake of the Thanksgiving Monday flood.
Record-breaking rainfall caused damage to homes, schools, roads and bridges in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality on Oct. 10.
Lynne McCarron, executive director for United Way Cape Breton, said it's been an emotional ride for flood victims.
"They've lost everything. They've not just lost their home, they've lost their whole lives," she said. "I know quite a few of them personally, it's been very challenging."
Donors from far away
McCarron said her organization is responsible for distributing $25,000 from the municipality and $500,000 from the province to address flood victims' basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter.
The organization has also raised $108,000 for the cause from donors across Canada and the United States, as well as places like Denmark and China.
Many of the people giving money indicated they'd visited Cape Breton before, McCarron said, and "really enjoyed their time here, really enjoyed the people here and they want to help back."
Basic needs only
Flood victims are told to call the helpline for assistance — 902-562-HELP (4357) — and complete a questionnaire. Requests for compensation beyond basic needs are referred to the Emergency Management Organization (EMO).
For instance, if somebody's fridge was destroyed, the United Way will help replace it, McCarron said. The organization will also pay to replace the food, up to $1,000 per family.
But if the basement freezer was destroyed, the United Way will pay to replace the food, but not the freezer itself — that request would have to go to EMO, McCarron said.
United Way staff have fielded more than 1,500 calls, she said, although in some cases those are multiple calls from the same people.
McCarron said a major concern is that 92 furnaces have been reported as broken. "They would have no heat or hot water," she said.
Municipal staff are doing inspections to determine if the furnaces can be fixed, and to quote a cost for repairs. If those costs aren't covered by insurance, the United Way will pick up the tab, McCarron said.
50 home inspections a day
Staff with the Cape Breton Regional Muncipality are inspecting approximately 50 homes a day, she said, and 18 homes have been deemed uninhabitable.
In some cases, tenants whose apartment buildings have been condemned are now looking for a place to live, McCarron said.
"Some of them have no place to stay," she said. "They may not have family or friends that they can stay with."
The United Way settled a family of four into temporary accommodations at the Canadian Coast Guard College in Sydney on Friday, McCarron said.