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Sechelt neighbourhood evacuated due to sinkholes

Last Updated Feb 17, 2019 at 8:30 am PDT

Summary

14 homes in Sechelt have been evacuated because of sinkholes

The subdivision was sold despite reports of the danger of sinkholes

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Fourteen families in an upscale neighbourhood on the Sunshine Coast are spending their first weekend away from home after being forced to evacuate because of sinkholes.

The District of Sechelt declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon due to the “imminent threat to life” posed by several sinkholes that opened up in the Seawatch subdivision.

While the sinkholes opened over a number of years, a recent engineering report for the city says the hazard is increasing with time and it’s very likely there will be at least one each year going forward.

Some people living in the subdivision say they weren’t adequately informed of the risk when they bought properties and the district says two owners have active lawsuit against the district, developer, engineers, and others.

“It was tough cleaning it out, leaving the house somewhat empty. We didn’t get everything out but it was really tough to see the house that we’d moved into 4 years ago, which was gonna be our last house and had moved my parents into, is now empty and is worth, I guess, nothing,” said Irene Pickell, one of the evacuated people.

“A lot of people think that we should have know better, we should have been able to read these geotechnical reports and things like that, and we had done our due diligence, we believed we had, the stuff that we were shown was good. We wouldn’t have done this, like who would buy a house thinking, you know, that it was gonna fall in the ocean or something.”

The district says Concordia Seawatch Limited built and sold the subdivision despite engineering reports from as far back as 2006 describing the potential for sinkholes. It does not plan on offering financial help for the homeowners.

“We have asked Provincial and Federal officials about any compensation however we have not yet received a favourable response,” says a statement from Julie Rogers with the district.

“Two of the residents have pending legal action. The District’s position has been that the Sechelt taxpayer cannot bear the burden of a failed private venture. The District relied on the professional engineering reports provided by the developer.”

People living nearby say they’ve been worried from the get go.

“We were trying to go back to the city, ‘What’s going on? How come this is going on? Has this been approved?’ and all the time ‘yea, yea, not to worry, not to worry,’ but then we saw the devestation,” says Lisette Sekaraen who leives near the evacuated neighborhood.

In an earlier statement, the Concordia Seawatch says it has “great concern and compassion” for the homeowners and families being forced out of their homes but noted it couldn’t comment further.

“As the developer and others are currently involved in civil litigation relating to the Seawatch Development, we are not providing further comment at this time,” read the statement from the company.