British Columbia

District of Sechelt declares local state of emergency due to sinkholes

Residents of 14 ocean-view homes on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast have been ordered to leave after an engineering report concluded sinkholes are putting residents at risk.

Evacuation order issued for 14 homes in upscale Sunshine Coast subdivision

The Seawatch neighbourhood of Sechelt, on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, is under an evacuation order because of sinkholes. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Residents of 14 ocean-view homes on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast have been ordered to leave after an engineering report found that nearby sinkholes are putting them at risk.

As of 1 p.m. Friday, District of Sechelt declared a local state of emergency for the  Seawatch neighbourhood perched above the west side of Sechelt Inlet north of Vancouver.

The area is surrounded by blue fencing to keep intruders — and residents — away from the homes.

"Future sinkholes or landslides could damage existing infrastructure such as underground utilities, roads or sidewalks, or private property including buildings and retaining walls," says the engineering report commissioned by the district. "Injury or even death are possible consequences."

Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers said the district wanted to impose the order last week, but delayed after objections from residents facing a sudden exit. Instead, an evacuation advisory has been in place with barriers erected on the street.

Under the advisory, the district ordered residents to move children out of the area. Most homes were inhabited by retired couples.

During the residents' hasty effort to clear out their million-dollar homes, concrete barriers were moved to the side of the road allowing pickup trucks and moving vans to get closer to the homes.

Volunteers have been busy in the neighbourhood, helping residents move and providing food and hot beverages. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Neighbours reported an enormous show of community support with dozens of strangers arriving in the Seawatch neighbourhood to help pack, move and feed the displaced residents.

Now that the evacuation order is in place, residents will have access to some emergency accommodation and meal vouchers for 72 hours through Emergency Management B.C.

"We hope residents put the lives of their families first and comply with the order as quickly as possible," said Siegers in a statement. "We regret having to take this action, but we did so to prevent serious injury or loss of life."


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About the Author

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

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