Nfld. & Labrador

'Absolutely unbelievable' road damage, some areas still cut off

Transportation Minister Al Hawkins says it's been a real challenge to restore links to Newfoundland communities after 13 washouts, but repair crews have done a "tremendous job."

Transportation minister says most roads now open, repairs to cost more than $10M

A look at the relief effort as supplies of water and food arrive in Milltown, near St. Alban's, on Thursday after a bridge washed out, cutting off the town. (Brandon King)

Transportation Minister Al Hawkins says it's been a real challenge to restore links to Newfoundland communities after 13 washouts, but repair crews have done a "tremendous job."

Hawkins told CBC Radio's On the Go on Thursday that most roads are now open, some with one lane, but problem areas remain — at the Swanger Cove bridge in the St. Alban's area, and on the Burgeo Highway.

Part of Route 364 near Hermitage also remained closed as of Friday, with communities like Seal Cove cut off.

"It's overwhelming," Hawkins said after touring the affected areas. "Somewhat surreal to realize the damage … It's absolutely unvelievable."

It's damage the province said will take at least $10 million to repair, an estimate confirmed Thursday by the premier's office, a figure Hawkins said does not include personal property damage. 

An aerial photo shows a section of Route 480 washed out. Until it is fixed, Burgeo, Ramea, Grey River and Francois residents can only travel to other parts of Newfoundland by a helicopter service. (Twitter/@hare_karen)

Hawkins said 10 damaged roads should be reopened to traffic by Thursday evening. A section of road from Badger to Buchans reopened Friday, with traffic reduced to one lane in some areas. 

But it will take longer to repair some of the damage on the south coast.

"Just an absolute massive deterioration there," Hawkins said of the Burgeo road. "It's really a big scope of work."

He said "every resource that we have, including contractors" are in the area, but it will be at least a week before vehicles can use Route 480. In the meantime, a helicopter is servicing the area.

As for Swanger Cove, he said the department is working hard to open at least one lane "over the next couple of days," but is having a problem getting the right kind of stone for that repair job.

The aftermath of Hurricane Matthew destroyed the only bridge leading into St. Alban's. (Melissa Burke/Twitter)

The province has aging infrastructure that can't handle the recent heavy rainfall, Hawkins said.

"Years gone by, with the storms we had, it might have been able to handle the situation but we're getting storms now, you know 100-year storms, we probably get two or three every 10 years."   

Repairs are temporary, he said, and the province will have to assess what should be done for a more permanent fix.

​Applications for relief

It's expected Ottawa will pitch in to help pay for some of the road repair work.

Liberal MP Scott Simms said the federal government's assistance will be focused on the medium and long term.

"[Residents] apply under the disaster assistance arrangements program, and they can get up to 90 per cent reimbursement for the damage. My job now is to go around and make sure that everyone is OK, and we move from here and see what kind of work that we need to do," Simms told CBC Radio's Central Morning Show.

Al Hawkins said people who lost personal property should document their losses by taking pictures, and check with their insurance companies. (Deborah Mary Caines/Facebook)

"I advise people — like [with] what happened around Igor — check on your neighbours, check on the most vulnerable — the elderly, young children — make sure everyone's OK and then we [can] get on with the cleanup," Simms said.

Homeowners, small businesses, non-profit organizations and communities can apply for government disaster relief.

Residents should contact their insurance companies first, said Hawkins. He also encouraged people to document their losses by taking photographs.

For more information and advice from the provincial government click here.

With files from On the Go and Central Morning