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A bystander looks over the Tusket River bridge on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 along Highway 3 in Tusket, Nova Scotia. The structure collapsed from the stain of floodwaters after the area was hit with heavy and wind and rain. Much of Southwest Nova Scotia is dealing with road and bridge closures as rivers and waterways continue to spill their banks. (Mike Dembeck/The Canadian Press/Mike Dembeck/The Canadian Press)
A bystander looks over the Tusket River bridge on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 along Highway 3 in Tusket, Nova Scotia. The structure collapsed from the stain of floodwaters after the area was hit with heavy and wind and rain. Much of Southwest Nova Scotia is dealing with road and bridge closures as rivers and waterways continue to spill their banks. (Mike Dembeck/The Canadian Press/Mike Dembeck/The Canadian Press)

Flooded Nova Scotia region in dire need of federal help, premier says Add to ...

Nova Scotia is in dire need of federal help after a four-day deluge of rain swamped homes, chewed away roads and turned rivers into lakes, Premier Darrell Dexter said Thursday.

Mr. Dexter's appeal to Ottawa came after he witnessed first-hand the devastation during a helicopter tour over areas where flooding has forced more than a hundred people from their homes in the southwestern corner of the province.

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"To say that it's incomprehensible may actually be an understatement," Mr. Dexter told a news conference.

"The simple reality is that we haven't seen these kinds of severe and regular weather events for, well, forever."

The heavy downpour also took out the 20-metre Tusket River bridge on Highway 3 on Tuesday night. Mr. Dexter said repairing that link will be a priority and engineers are considering erecting a temporary bridge.

He said he spoke with Peter MacKay, the province's representative in the federal cabinet, to indicate that the province will need Ottawa's help with the costs of repairing infrastructure.

"I think it will certainly be in the millions," Mr. Dexter said.

"There are an extraordinary number of homes affected, from flooded basements through to structural damage. All of that has to be assessed."

In a statement, Mr. MacKay extended his condolences to people in the region and said the federal government was closely monitoring the situation.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose homes and lives have been affected by the flooding in Nova Scotia," he said, adding that Mr. Dexter has not requested military help.

"Other forms of federal disaster assistance are the subject of ongoing assessment."

Malcolm d'Entremont, a 41-year-old resident in the nearby community of Quinan, said there was no doubt residents will need disaster relief assistance in the aftermath of the floods.

"And if the premier could pull the plug on all this water of course, that would be ideal," he quipped, smiling.

The province's Department of Natural Resources closed some trails along an abandoned rail corridor as a precaution, saying there was a danger of structural damage because of the rainfall.

For days, utility crews watched nervously for signs of possible breaches at the Tusket dam after more than 200 millimetres of rain fell on the area since Friday. But emergency officials said water levels began to recede Wednesday, providing a small measure of relief for residents in the area.

Aldric d'Entremont, the warden of the Municipality of Argyle, said some people who chose to remain in their homes during the flooding are growing weary and have been asking for food and clean water.

"This has been going on for several days and you're getting some frustration now. Some people have stayed in their homes and can't get out now," he said.

"Everybody is stretched out to the limit ... It's stressful at times."

Mr. d'Entremont, 69, has lived in the area his entire life and said he has never seen such a relentless rainfall.

"I've never seen so much water," he said. "I don't think anybody has ever seen this before in this area."

Mr. Dexter said the extent of the damage was greater than that sustained by the remote Cape Breton community of Meat Cove, where rain and flash flooding in August caused an estimated $7.2 million to rebuild roads, bridges and culverts.

"This is much broader than what we saw there," he said. "These kinds of events are becoming more regular and more severe.

"I believe the standards that are currently set for bridges and roads are designed to address our current weather standards. The problem is we have a lot of aging infrastructure and they were built to different standards."

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