Police have confirmed the recovery of the bodies of two children, who had been missing since they were swept away in floodwaters created by the weekend’s catastrophic rainfall, with searchers continuing to comb a flooded hayfield for another youth who has yet to be located.
Early Saturday morning, four people were reported missing after the pickup truck and SUV they were travelling in suddenly submerged under three metres of water in the rural community of Brooklyn, 65 kilometres northwest of Halifax.
The RCMP announced Monday that they had located one of them, a 52-year-old man, as well as unidentified human remains that had been pulled a considerable distance by the Bay of Fundy’s powerful tidal system.
Police said Tuesday that the unidentified person was one of the two children, and that the body of the second child was found within 45 metres of the deceased adult.
“They were fleeing their house … trying to get to a safe area,” Sergeant Rob Frizzell of the West Hants RCMP told reporters. “That’s when they were struck with the storm surge as they were leaving and were kind of pushed off of the road into a field that then quickly flooded with water.”
Extreme flooding started Friday evening and stretched into Saturday, dumping up to 250 millimetres of rain in some parts of the province, destroying bridges, washing out at least 50 roads and a chunk of the CN Railway, causing widespread damages to homes.
Premier Tim Houston has declared a state of emergency for some parts of the province, the second time in two months after wildfires in June. Experts say climate change has contributed to both events.
On Tuesday, search and rescue teams waded through what police described as “a lake worth of water” in a hayfield field searching for the missing youth. The province broke dikes and used industrial high flow pumps to divert tens of thousands of litres per minute of water from the search area.
Three other adults who were with the children when the vehicles submerged, and had been transported to hospital early Saturday, have been released.
“They’re doing as well as can be,” Sgt. Frizzell said.
At a news conference in Windsor, Mr. Houston offered condolences to the families of the deceased victims.
“It’s another incredibly sad day in what’s now been a series of terrible days in this province,” he said. “We’ve shown we can handle a lot – the fires and the hurricanes and another series of floods, but this really doesn’t compare.”
Meanwhile, some residents in Bedford whose homes were destroyed by the extreme flooding piled mattresses, furniture and toys into dumpsters and onto the dirt-caked grass on Tuesday, some still in shock about how fast and how high the Sackville River burst onto their quiet suburban street on the weekend.
Saba Alam and his wife, Nikki Esber, recalled a harrowing escape with their two children Friday night, as the floodwater suddenly surged four feet into their split-level home on Union Street.
Water rose above the windows of their Nissan Pathfinder as Mr. Alam steered the vehicle with two children – a toddler and a 13-year-old special-needs child – strapped into their car seats in the back. At one end of their street, they saw emergency vehicles submerged in floodwater. Police motioned frantically for the family to turn the car around.
“It’s a miracle how we got out of here,” Ms. Esber said. “It keeps on going through my head what happened, what could’ve happened.”
Their home, like many others on the street, is destroyed. Ms. Esber, who works from home for RBC, said she is too traumatized to ever think about rebuilding in the same area. The couple purchased the home four years ago without knowing it was on a flood plain. The first floor is wet with muddy water and slick with oil, which leaked from several homeowners’ upturned home heating tanks.
Kelly Regan, provincial MLA for Bedford Basin and deputy leader of the Official Opposition, said the roughly 40-year-old homes on low lying land next to the Sackville River never should’ve been built, and governments need to step up and buy out the residents.
“This is going to keep happening,” she said referring to torrential rains in the area. “Do we think this is where it’s going to end? With climate change, we need to be taking steps to protecting citizens from the worst of it.”
Ms. Regan said the province also needs to come up with a better plan to evacuate people when flash floods hit. In Bedford, the Sackville River rose “fast and furious,” she said. People had no exit out of the neighbourhood until city staff removed metal posts on a walkway.
“People didn’t know if they were supposed to evacuate or stay where they were, or drive or not drive,” she said. “I think about the folks who lost their lives.”