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Road damage from N.B. floods will ‘definitely’ cause first response delays: fire chief

Click to play video: 'Washout from floods damaging roads across New Brunswick'
Washout from floods damaging roads across New Brunswick
Sussex, N.B., officials say a flash flood is the worst the town has experienced in a decade. The town saw 205 millimetres of rain in a short amount of time. Nathalie Sturgeon has more on the official response – Mar 1, 2024

Washouts from this week’s intense flash flooding have caused road damage all over New Brunswick and cut an important thoroughfare in the rural community of Havelock in half.

A section of Route 112 was completely washed out by the intense rain Thursday morning, meaning residents now have to take a detour — which was estimated to be 20 minutes — to get to nearby Salisbury.

The Havelock Fire Department’s chief says he’s concerned about what that means for first responders.

“It will definitely mean a delay in response times for the fire services, assisting fire departments and Ambulance New Brunswick,” Chief Anthony DeMott said.

“There’s going to be a delay for residents in the area. Emergency services will have to take another route to get to them.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation told Global News they were monitoring and assessing the various washouts across the province.

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Click to play video: 'Drone video shows ‘devastating’ floods  in Sussex, N.B.'
Drone video shows ‘devastating’ floods in Sussex, N.B.

About 40 kilometres away in the town of Sussex, the cleanup is also continuing, after more than two metres of water breached the banks of Trout Creek — impacting hundreds of homes and businesses.

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For Stephane Gagnon and his family, it’s a sense of déjà vu.

Their home was damaged in the 2014 floods, and promises were made back then to help fix the causes of the water breaching the banks.

But on Wednesday, water levels once again reached their living room windows during a flash flood, prompted by more than 200 millimetres of rain.

“The water went up so fast, we didn’t have time to do anything,” Gagnon said.

“Most of our stuff were on shelves here and the current was so bad, the door opened. All the furniture was here, all the shelves, everything was torn apart and everything fell in the water.”

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The water also brought in thick, dirty mud — now frozen to the cement floor.

Gagnon estimates there’s at least $20,000 in damage in his garage and significant impacts to his basement.

“Physically and mentally, it’s rough. You’re tired and you’re upset,” he said.

The Sussex Fire Department received about 30 calls for service during the flood, including a rescue by boat.

Fire Chief Tony Reicker says rescues involving floodwaters are especially challenging.

“There is so many elements that take that in … the unknown of what’s below you in terms of the road conditions or the conditions that may be coming down the river, such as debris,” he said.

The town’s CAO, Scott Hatcher, says 24 people, who are being helped by the Canadian Red Cross, remain displaced from their homes as of Friday afternoon.

“Our damage assessment running the numbers with respect to the water area that we saw — those 657 homes — have the potential of being damaged around $119 million,” Hatcher said.

Town officials say they continue their push for federal money to mitigate flooding risks. Their mitigation plan includes building diversion channels, which Hatcher said Friday would have prevented this week’s flooding.

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All this is little consolation for those living along the water.

“It’s not a choice you have, you have to survive,” Gagnon said.

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