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‘It will bankrupt us’: Sechelt residents pack up amid sinkhole-driven evacuation alert

WATCH: Sechelt residents on evacuation alert due to sinkholes

It was a tearful scene Friday at a Sechelt, B.C., subdivision, where residents packed their belongings amid falling snow, moving — for now — out of what they thought were their long-term homes.

The scene unfolded at the Seawatch development, where 14 families have been placed under an evacuation alert due to persistent and dangerous sinkholes.

The road to the area, where a number of the homes are assessed at over $1 million, has been blocked off with concrete barriers since last month.

READ MORE: Sechelt homeowners furious district has cut off access to their homes

Many people with whom Global News spoke said they feared they’d never be allowed to return.

“Our 12-year-old is crying a lot. He just doesn’t understand,” said resident Ed Pednaud.

“It’s kind of like our whole lives in here,” added Markikla Ranalli.

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Area of the Seawatch subdivision covered by an evacuation alert.
Area of the Seawatch subdivision covered by an evacuation alert. District of Sechelt

Concerns about sinkholes in the area have stretched back for more than a decade but have escalated in recent months.

The most recent hole opened up on Christmas Day, and a report by Thurber Engineering released this week recommended the “precautionary closure” of the neighbourhood, warning of serious risks.

“The high hazard of sinkhole collapse in combination with the consequences of potential injury or death result in a high and, in our opinion, unacceptable level of risk to the public,” states the report.

READ MORE: Sunshine Coast dream homes become nightmares as sinkholes threaten subdivision

The report added that it expects at least one sinkhole to open up annually at the site and recommended further permanent road closures.

Residents tell Global News they expect the evacuation alert to be upgraded to an evacuation order, but no one knows when the axe will fall. District mayor Darnelda Siegers said it would not come before the end of the weekend.

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WATCH: Sunshine Coast dream homes may be worthless due to sinkholes

Sunshine Coast dream homes may be worthless due to sinkholes
Sunshine Coast dream homes may be worthless due to sinkholes

No one from the district would speak on camera Friday. However, in October, the district said that the issue was between residents and the subdivision’s developer.

“I think the decisions were made appropriately by the council of the day,” said former District of Sechelt mayor Bruce Milne at the time.

“And I think, I assume, that the people who developed the land as private developers and the people who purchased the land as homeowners all were aware of that information. They have covenants on their title and they made decisions that they thought were appropriate.”

Homeowners claim the district and the developer ignored the warning signs of unstable ground.

READ MORE: Sinkhole closes Port Coquitlam on-ramp

“Likely, it will bankrupt us and most of our neighbours as well,” said Pednaud.

“Who can take a hit like this? Not many people.”

WATCH: An engineering report confirms a sinking Sechelt neighbourhood should remain closed

An engineering report confirms a sinking Sechelt neighbourhood should remain closed
An engineering report confirms a sinking Sechelt neighbourhood should remain closed

Making matters worse, there is no help available from the province.

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According to Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth, the area does not qualify for disaster relief because the possibility of sinkholes was identified before the development was built.

Despite the barricades and the ominous warnings from the district, some residents are vowing not to leave, saying their life savings are on the line.

“They can bring a coffin and take me out of here with a coffin. I’m not going anywhere,” said Chris Moradin.

“I’m going to stay here until I make sure the people who are responsible for creating this mess are brought to justice.”

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