British Columbia

'I can't believe we're never ever coming back here': Sinkholes force Sechelt community to evacuate homes

Fourteen homes in Sechelt's Seawatch neighbourhood face a looming evacuation order, due to sinkholes opening up. On Christmas Day, a sinkhole on an undeveloped property appeared, requiring 40 dump truck loads to fill it up.

Heartbroken residents of Seawatch neighbourhood pack up belongings with 14 homes in under evacuation order

Henry Pednaud stands under a sign on his street. The Pednaud family is one of 14 being displaced by an evacuation advisory as sinkholes appear in their Sechelt neighbourhood. (Ed Pednaud)

Rae-Dene Pednaud fights back tears as she describes the nearly-empty dream home in which she's standing in Sechelt.

"I look around and go, 'Oh my God I can't believe we're never ever coming back here,'" said Pednaud.

"I just don't know what — I don't know what'll happen to these houses, and they've told us to leave our heat on and a light on the porch to let them know we've left."

Pednaud, her husband Ed, and their two boys have been forced to hastily move out of the 4,000-square-foot dream home they built just a few years ago in Sechelt's Seawatch subdivision.

The development has had issues with ground stability, but it was a huge sinkhole that appeared on Christmas Day on a vacant property that set off a series of events that has led to the evacuation alert for 14 homes — with an evacuation order and the declaration of a local state of emergency expected Friday.

According to the District of Sechelt, the Christmas Day sinkhole was discovered on a property owned by the developer, Concordia Development, and the company immediately filled it with about 40 dump truck loads of material.

Multiple sinkholes have appeared, leading the district to issue an evacuation order Feb. 7. Barricades were put up, blocking vehicle traffic on the street, but residents were permitted to continue moving their possessions out of their homes.

Rae-Dene Pednaud carts a load of belongings in a children's wagon during a snow fall. (Ed Pednaud)

Pednaud said their move began during the worst of the snow storm, soaking their belongings as they carted them down the street to the spot where vehicles could park.

"We packed our stuff in wagons," she said. "Like a kid's red wagon — like a Costco wagon."

Pednaud said dozens of people from the community helped with the effort, bringing ATVs to help transport belongings.

Her family has been offered a 500-square-foot cabin to move into for now, but Pednaud said most of their furniture and possessions have been loaded, wet, into three storage lockers, and she doesn't have a clue where anything is.

She said many of her neighbours will have to leave the Sunshine Coast, and their tight-knit community has been torn apart by the sinkholes.

Residents in the Seawatch neighbourhood are struggling to clear out of their homes before an evacuation order is issued. (Ed Pednaud)

Ed Pednaud has been reaching out to provincial officials and local Member of Parliament Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, for help, saying the family's dream home will no longer be worth anything — though they're still paying the mortgage. He blames the district, saying it issued the building permits.

Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers wasn't available for comment, but district staff sent CBC News a fact sheet that includes the claim that "the District and the Sechelt taxpayers are not responsible to remediate a problem created by a private venture."

According to the district, the local state of emergency and evacuation order expected Friday will give displaced residents access to accommodation and food vouchers for 72 hours.


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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker

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