Volunteers from Alberta and Ontario assist with N.B. flood cleanup

MAUGERVILLE, N.B. - Covered in sweat and swatting black flies, Shelly Jones and Karen Gray strained as they hauled a large pail of debris from a flood-ravaged home near the banks of New Brunswick's Saint John River.


MAUGERVILLE, N.B. - Covered in sweat and swatting black flies, Shelly Jones and Karen Gray strained as they hauled a large pail of debris from a flood-ravaged home near the banks of New Brunswick's Saint John River.

There were similar, depressing scenes Wednesday at homes along Route 105, east of Fredericton.

But Jones and Gray are not from Maugerville - they're volunteers, giving their time to help victims of recent flooding that forced hundreds of people from their homes and left at least 1,500 houses and businesses damaged.

"A lot of people don't have the means to do it themselves," said Jones, who lives in nearby Fredericton. "And physically, it's very demanding. It's wet, mouldy, smelly, dirty and grimy."

Jones and Gray, of Rusagonis, N.B., are among about 60 volunteers who answered the call of Samaritan's Purse Canada, a non-denominational Christian organization based in Calgary.

Brent Davis, the organization's relief teams co-ordinator, said the group also dispatched three volunteers from Alberta and two from Ontario.

The disaster relief unit has a specially equipped tractor-trailer unit.

"Onboard, we have pumps, generators, shovels, brooms, Shop-Vacs, and basically any piece of equipment we need to bring a house from a disaster zone all the way up to sanitary conditions for the homeowner to begin rebuilding," Davis said.

"Currently, we have over 60 people requesting our help, and we've made the commitment to be here until people stop asking for help."

The basements of most of the homes along Route 105 were flooded when the river spilled its banks after heavy rain in the north combined with a rapidly melting snow left over from an unusually harsh winter.

Weeks after the flood waters retreated, there are large piles of destroyed furniture, carpets, drywall and insulation at the end of driveways all along the route.

On Wednesday, Linda Humber of Maugerville watched as a crew loaded the soggy contents of her basement into a large garbage truck.

"It was a finished basement, but not any more," she said. "The walls are all gone, and anything down there is pretty much ruined."

Nearby, Jeff Wohlgemuth surveyed the damage at another home, where the rushing water had removed most of the driveway and deposited a chunk from the paved shoulder of the highway on the middle of the lawn.

Wohlgemuth, a resident of Woodstock, N.B., is also a volunteer with Samaritan's Purse, and he gave up a day from his roofing business to help others.

"Actually, one of my hired men is in Greensberg, Kansas, doing some volunteer work following the Greensberg tornado, so I'm kind of short-handed anyway, so I took the day off and came up here," he said.

So far, the Emergency Measures Organization has received damage reports from more than 1,500 homes and small businesses.

Meanwhile, the province has started issuing cheques of up to $4,000 for residents needing help with urgent repairs.

Under New Brunswick's disaster relief plan, homeowners are eligible for up to $80,000 in compensation for essentials, after paying a $1,000 deductible.

Businesses and farms have a $5,000 deductible, and can be compensated for 100 per cent of their first $100,000 in damages, and 75 per cent beyond that.

John Foran, the province's minister of public safety, says home inspections are well underway, but it's too early to estimate the total cost for the disaster relief.

 
 
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