Nova Scotia

Sydney flood evacuees return home to devastation

As the water recedes in Sydney, N.S., those who fled flooding earlier this week are beginning to return home to mud-stained living rooms, waterlogged vehicles, and neighbourhoods stinking of oil.

Homes 'unlivable,' neighbourhoods smell of polluted water and furnace oil

This car had been covered by more than two and a half metres of mud, furnace oil, floodwater and sewage. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

As the water recedes in Sydney, N.S., those who fled flooding earlier this week are beginning to return home to mud-stained living rooms, waterlogged vehicles, and neighbourhoods stinking of oil.

Seeing their homes for the first time since record-setting rains devastated the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has been a shock for many. 

Kim Bungay fled the rising waters at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday. By that time the water surrounding her home was waist deep. 

"We didn't think it would come this high. It's never come this high before. We've lived here for 25 years," she said.

On returning to her neighbourhood, the smell of polluted water was overwhelming. 

"The oil smell out here is nuts," said Bungay.

'The water just kept coming'

She said both her vehicles were underwater and are probably writeoffs. She found water pooled in the cupholders of her car. 

Like so many others, Bungay is waiting. Waiting on insurance adjusters to determine where she's covered; waiting on a mechanic to look at her vehicles to determine if they are salvageable. 

"The neighbours are helping each other out as best we can," she said.

Homes 'unlivable'

Robin Nathanson returned to his home for the first time on Wednesday. His wraparound deck was gone, carried away in the flood. He had to use a ladder to get in his front door. 

Bungay returned home to find her car's cupholders filled with flood water. (CBC)

What he saw inside was shocking. Floodwater had filled his basement to the ceiling and even came up over the cupboards in his kitchen on the main floor. 

"This is unlivable," he said. "I'm just lost right now." 

His furniture on the main floor had floated around and came to rest randomly in pools of dirty, oil-laden water. 

"You walk in and you get a muddy smell. It's an overwhelming smell as soon as you walk in the house," Nathanson told CBC's Maritime Noon

"I can't even describe it. We walked into the house and the first thing you see is just furniture flipped over, and everywhere there's a thick layer of mud all throughout the house and paint's bubbling, drywall's cracking."

Robin Nathanson was shocked by the damage after returning home for the first time since the flood. (CBC)

Money for repairs isn't there

The damage is devastating, especially for people like Nathanson who are not sure where the money to repair their homes will come from. 

"A lot of people around here, ourselves included, are more or less paycheque to paycheque living. We don't have a tonne of savings to even think about how to begin restoration," he said.

Neither Nathanson nor Bungay have heard much from their respective insurance companies. 
Terry Drohan and his family escaped on an air mattress as the floodwater almost completely submerged the first floor of their home on St. Peter's Road. (CBC )

"Most of what I heard is, essentially, because it was rainwater or groundwater, the majority of it won't be covered at all," said Nathanson.

Premier Stephen McNeil said in a news conference Wednesday that people who aren't covered by insurance won't be abandoned. But before determining what help goes where, the province and the municipality have to assess the damage. 

"We as a community will be standing with those families," said McNeil. "Together, we will deal with this issue and get individual properties back again as quickly as possible."

The province is applying for disaster relief money from the federal government to help the community. 

With files from Maritime Noon, Carly Stagg, Tom Murphy