It looked like an earthquake hit Monday afternoon on McNulty Place.
Now, a group of Winnipeg homeowners who own property on the small cul-de-sac off River Road in St. Vital are shocked — the Red River’s bank sunk so dramatically in a matter of minutes it looked like a bomb went off, rather than water slowly eroding the river’s edge.
“I see a complete natural disaster,” said Gail Auriti on Friday while looking over the precipitous cliff that suddenly appeared Monday in the backyard of her McNulty Place home that she’s owned since 2011.
Auriti said the massive sinkhole that stretches across her and her two neighbours’ properties looks different than the typical erosion she expected as a riverfront property owner.
“This is a complete sinkhole,” she said.
The homeowners have contacted their insurance companies and have brought in an engineering consultant to deal with the sinkhole, which at points is just about 20 feet from their homes.
They’ve also contacted elected officials.
“We’re hoping that we can find some sort of resource or get some help from government officials besides just the individual property owners (insurance),” Auriti said.
The city sent out a riverbank engineer Monday, a city communications staffer wrote in an email.
That engineer “consulted with the impacted property owners on factors that may have contributed to the event and the possible next steps. There has also been continued correspondence with property owners and their own consultant,” the city staffer wrote.
But the onus for fixing the dramatic land collapse is on the homeowners.
“The risks associated with ownership of riverbank property, including the possible impacts of erosion and slope instabilities, are borne by the property owner. The city does not have council-approved funding for assisting with riverbank stabilization, erosion protection or other remedial works to protect or restore privately-owned riverbank land,” the staffer wrote further.
The province, too, said the collapse is the homeowners’ responsibility.
“The province would only get involved if the erosion was affecting critical provincial infrastructure,” a Manitoba Infrastructure spokesperson said in an email, adding the river levels at this time of the year are not controlled by the province — rather, the federal government’s locks at St. Andrews.