Nova Scotia

Insurance woes await some hardest hit by Cape Breton floods

Some Cape Bretoners returning home to water-stained drywall, ruined furniture and worse following this week's flood are also coming to grips with the prospect that much of the damage may not be covered by insurance.

Most policies cover sewer backup, but not always overland flooding

Removing floodwater from homes was a losing battle for many people in Cape Breton after 220 millimetres of rain came down in 24 hours earlier this week. (CBC)

Some Cape Bretoners returning home to water-stained drywall, ruined furniture and worse following this week's flood are also coming to grips with the prospect that much of the damage may not be covered by insurance.

It's exactly the possibility faced by Terry Drohan. He worries his home on St. Peter's Road in Sydney may be a total loss after it flooded to the first-floor ceiling and filled with silt, furnace oil and sewage. He's not optimistic his insurance policy will help.

"The main clause that everybody, myself and all my neighbours are looking at, is sewage backup," he said. "I had a little bit extra because I have a creek in the backyard.

"But for now, insurance companies are saying [sewage backup] is pretty well the only coverage that we have."

The payout is only about $10,000 for those who had that coverage, Drohan said. 

'You're on your own'

St. Peter's Road is in central Sydney, the heart of the disaster area where 220 millimetres of rain overwhelmed municipal infrastructure in a matter of hours on Thanksgiving Day.

Insurance experts have said sewage backup coverage can help if water came in through the sewer, floor drains, tub, sinks or toilet. But if it seeped through windows and doors, many homeowners will be out of luck without "extended water coverage."

Drohan said one of his neighbours was told "you're on your own" by an insurance adjuster who explained the man's policy doesn't cover groundwater, or overland flooding.

Denise Dunn of Prime Brook, just outside Sydney, heard the same bad news from her insurance company Wednesday night.

Her finished basement was destroyed in the flooding. She was told her policy included the sewage backup clause, but that's of no use to her because her home is not on the municipal sewer system.

Lost everything

Patricia Rogers, however, may be able to recover some of her losses.

She lived in the same basement apartment for 13 years and was forced out Monday as water began coming from everywhere.

"The water first started coming up through the toilet, and then the tub," she said. "My landlord said that the plumber was on the way.

"By the time the plumber got here, the water was overflowing in the bathroom and coming into my bedroom and the laundry room. It was coming up from the drainage in the floor."

Rogers said she shot video of the water as it rose, apparently out of the apartment's plumbing, so she's hopeful she may be able to replace the furniture and clothing she lost in the flood.

Mayor promises emergency relief

Cape Breton Regional Mayor Cecil Clarke has announced $1.5 million in emergency funding for people in immediate need of shelter, food and clothing.

He said at a briefing Thursday morning that he's confident other disaster relief will be forthcoming from the provincial and federal governments, both for people whose insurance won't cover the losses, and those who had no insurance at all.

That's welcome news to Drohan.

"None of use can really afford to stay in hotels or find apartments. The oil is through all of the clothing; there isn't really anything salvageable and we're all running out of money staying in hotels, so we're hoping for some immediate relief."

With files from Tom Murphy