Bowker flood victims begin to rebuild

Municipality criticized for inaction and lack of communication

  • Nov. 28, 2012 6:00 p.m.

Six days after a massive flood from a broken watermain that spilled more than 11 million litres of water onto the street and into the basements of homes in the 2200-block of Bowker Ave., area residents are angry and dissatisfied with the response of the Oak Bay municipality.

“I’m actually getting pretty angry,” said Martin Scaia, one resident whose home was flooded.

“Our lives have been turned upside down. I could lose everything.”

When some of the huge volume of water, the equivalent of six olympic-sized swimming pools, ran through Scaia’s home, he lost more than just insurable possessions. He operates his own building renovation and construction company, and while he works to recover some sense of normalcy in his home, he hasn’t got time to bid on work and the jobs he has are suffering.

“No one’s going to repay me for the lost wages, the lost jobs,” he said. “I’m at risk of losing so much more than just the things in my home.”

Next door, Diane Heavener expressed similar concerns. “My back yard is a mud bowl. Insurance isn’t going to cover that. Who’s going to repair all that damage?”

Heavener’s daughter Cindy Heavener is equally incensed. “All I had left from my dad was in the basement. There were the things he built with his own hands, all his tools. All of that had to be thrown out and my seven-year-old son went down and saw them throwing out grandpa’s things and just burst into tears. We had to leave.”

Residents say that although the mayor and a few others have been on the street, no one has come to the door to apologize or accept responsibility for the harm that was done. It also appears that another breakdown in communication managed to add insult to injury in the flood’s aftermath.

“We were told that Oak Bay would pay for three nights of hotel,” said Diane Heavener. “On the second day people were being told by the hotels that Oak Bay was paying only one night and they needed to come up with cash if they wanted to stay longer.”

Mayor Nils Jensen confirmed that volunteers at the municipality’s emergency shelter told residents that three nights of hotels would be covered. “There is an issue with the protocols,” he said. “We would generally recover those costs from the province, but there are some issues there that we’re trying to work out.” He is adamant that everything that can be done to repair the harm caused by the flood, will be done.

A series of meetings was held with senior administrators last week and Jensen said he is still awaiting an administrative report on what caused the event and what policies and procedures need to be reworked.

It’s too little for some residents.

“What people need to know is that there is just no remorse on their part,” said Cindy Heavener. “When the rubber hits the road, the municipality isn’t coming through.”