The search for a young person swept away in a catastrophic flood in rural Nova Scotia was set to continue into the weekend, in deluged fields and at the edges of the river systems that flow into the Minas Basin.
The youth, who has not been identified, went missing in the early morning hours of last Saturday in the Brooklyn area, located about an hour’s drive northwest of Halifax.
The youth was in an SUV with 52-year-old musician Nick Holland when the vehicle was suddenly submerged in flood water. Mr. Holland’s body was recovered on Monday. Police say there is no connection between the two victims, other than that they were travelling in the same vehicle.
In a separate incident around the same time, two children were swept away while fleeing their Brooklyn home in a vehicle with their parents. The bodies of the six-year-olds, Natalie Hazel Harnish and Colton Sisco, were recovered on Monday and Tuesday.
Search teams combed the riverbanks and drained a hayfield adjacent to the area where both vehicles were submerged, while helicopters scanned the connecting tidal river systems overhead for a sixth day, RCMP Corporal Chris Marshall said in an e-mail.
He added that the searchers are determined to recover the youth and reunite them with their family.
Those searching for the youth have been challenged by the vast geography of fields in the area, many of which have become lakes, according to Mark Phillips, chief administrative officer of the Municipality of West Hants, which includes Brooklyn. Another obstacle is the local network of tide-influenced rivers, now swollen with flood water.
“Until the water recedes you don’t have great access, and searching for people in a grid system is far more effective by foot than by boat,” he said, adding that there are also steep slopes and thick vegetation to contend with. “We have a lot of lot of local volunteers that have great knowledge of the land.”
West Hants, made up of small towns and farming communities, is known for its active volunteer firefighting and search-and-rescue crews, which, along with other volunteers from across the province, made up the majority of the searchers this week, Mr. Phillips said. Many have worked days on end, and more plan to work this weekend, he added.
The community has come together. There was a barbecue and yoga fundraiser on Friday night to support the families whose loved ones were lost in the flash flood.
Colton, the six-year-old boy who died, loved to ride his bike and play video games with his older brother Alex, his father Chris Sisco told The Globe. Colton was a close playmate of Natalie’s.
According to Natalie’s obituary, she loved the colour purple, dressing up like a princess and cartwheeling around the house she shared with her parents, Nick and Courtney Harnish, and her younger brother Christian. The Sisco and Harnish families fled the flood together.
Mr. Holland, the 52-year-old who died, was a father of two and a member of a heavy metal band called Hogtooth.
The extreme flood occurred during a rainstorm that dumped 250 millimetres of precipitation on parts of the province, causing widespread damage to roads and bridges and a chunk of the CN railway.
In a statement, Nova Scotia Minister of Public Works Kim Masland said crews are working around the clock to fix the 20 roads that are still closed throughout the province. Twenty-nine bridges need extensive repairs and seven more were destroyed and need to be rebuilt.
CN spokesperson Daniel Salvatore said the rail network in Nova Scotia is back open after closing for a week because of the floods. “The company will continue to inspect its network across the province as it works with its customers to resume movements in an orderly fashion,” he said.