British Columbia

Evacuation order in Zeballos, B.C. enters 5th month

About a dozen residents of the small village at the north end of Vancouver Island, population just over 100, were ordered from their homes in September due to landslide risk.

'We're in this 'watch and wait' kind of mode right now it seems,' says mayor

Some properties in the village of Zeballos are still under an evacuation order five months after it was first issued. (Village of Zeballos)

About a dozen residents of Zeballos, B.C. are still out of their homes as an evacuation order enters its fifth month.

Some residents of the small village on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, with a population of just over 100, were ordered from their homes in September.

Officials feared a mountainside could give way after a forest fire — and the water applied to fight the flames —​ destabilized the slope.

Rose-Anne Michael, chief councillor of the Ehattesaht First Nation, was swept up in the evacuation order with her family, but decided to return home despite the potential danger, citing the expense of living in a second home and the fact that her job is in the community.

"It's scary. You wonder if it's going to hit your house and just hope that it doesn't come all the way down right to our residence," Michael said.

"It's not an easy time to sleep when you're worried."

'Watch and wait' mode

Julie Colborne, mayor of Zeballos, said there is emergency support available for evacuees, including assistance with rental accommodations and food.

"You know my heart really went out to those families," Colborne told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"It's really frustrating to hear that, you know, there is a potential of a rock fall or debris flow coming into the village."

Colborne said surveys have been carried out to assess the slope. A particular concern is the possibility of another major storm destabilizing the mountainside.

"We're in this 'watch and wait' kind of mode right now it seems," she added.

She said residents are encouraged to report any hints of possible debris fall they observe so authorities can get a better sense of the situation.

Mitigation work required

Emergency Management BC, in a statement, said assessments so far have shown the possibility for damaging homes and even blocking a main evacuation route.

The provincial agency said a recovery manager has been hired to help with the situation by advising the village government and helping displaced residents find longer-term housing.

Colborne said it's unclear what mitigation work needs to be completed before residents can move back in but several provincial agencies will need to collaborate to decide that.

Listen to the full story:

About a dozen residents of the small village at the north end of Vancouver Island, population just over 100, were ordered from their homes in September due to landslide risk. 10:50

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West