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Damage down the coast

Rose Blanche, Harbour Le Cou, Diamond Cove battered by Fiona

A man uses a boat to examine a damaged fishing shack in Rose Blanche harbour on Friday, September 30. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Incorporated

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

– with files from René J. Roy

SOUTHWEST COAST — Port aux Basques is not the only community on the Southwest Coast that was battered and left reeling by post-tropical depression Fiona. Even though the number of structures damaged may not be as numerous, smaller communities have been hit just as hard.

Tammy Battiste-Farrell, town clerk for Rose Blanche – Harbour Le Cou, said devastation is heartbreaking.

“I have 38 stages between Rose Blanche Harbour and Diamond Cove that I know are gone, 16 wharfs that are gone, and – I’m gonna say – millions of dollars’ worth of fishing equipment lost to the sea,” said Farrell.

Fiona struck the Southwest Coast on Saturday, Sept. 24 and by Friday morning, Sept. 30, almost a full week later, Battiste-Farrell’s phone was still ringing off the hook.

Tammy Battiste-Farrell at her desk. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Incorporated

“I had one gentleman tell me that he lost $15,000 worth of new traps, just one man, so it’s devastating. I’ve had people tell me – and not all of those 38 fishing stages are fisherpersons, it’s retired fisherpersons or those that had a recreational boat and had a shed. You know what Newfoundland houses are like. There’s no storage, so they stored their winter clothes there. That’s gone. Their winter boots are gone, and their recreational fishing gear is gone. Their stuff – because they had a cabin down on the bay – that’s gone. It’s devastating. Not to the extent of some of our neighbours mind you, but it’s still a loss.”

With a population of around 380 people, the enormity of Fiona’s impact is still being assessed.

“The magnitude didn’t really hit me until this week. I had some personal damages with my family in Port aux Basques. I had family, really close family, that lost houses and all their belongings, and yesterday was the only day I didn’t cry. I can’t say that for today. I had a cry today, but I got to see my family on Tuesday and see they were indeed okay. And I drove to work on Wednesday morning and thought, ‘Oh my God, what has happened? What has happened to our town?,” shared Farrell. “All this week has been foggy and grey, and now there is no colour left in the harbour anyway, and it’s this dreary, dreadful feeling, but at least the sun is out today.”

It wasn’t only the fishing structures that were damaged in the storm. Many homes also suffered damage.

“I have a couple of homes that sustained wind damages. I’ve got a lady who lives by herself. She has some damages to her roof and outside porch, and all these people are registered with the Red Cross. I have a gentleman who had to leave his house that night, him and his son, and are actually staying with his daughter because they can’t go back to their house. The sea didn’t take their house because of the way it was situated on the rock, but it took the shed. Everything that was in the basement, the sea burst through the doors and destroyed everything inside,” said Farrell.

She paused to take another call from a resident reporting another loss due to Fiona; a cabin at the bay and everything that was in it.

“I guess people are starting to go down that way,” said Farrell. “A lot of people have cabins in the Valley, and a lot of people down here have cabins down the bay, so I am guessing they are just getting down to check that stuff now.”

Even though the town of Port aux Basques issued evacuation orders in place and declared a state of emergency, Rose Blanche chose not to follow suit.

“There was really no big concern at the time. We are really sheltered, and (we have) the protection of what we call ‘The Neck’ towards the lighthouse, and King’s Island. So there was really no big concern for an evacuation, even that morning when it was daylight and the waves were still coming. It was high tide and there were waves and water, more than normal, but there still wasn’t a need that we were concerned about at that time. Even for the state of emergency, same thing,” explained Farrell. “We got up that morning and once you get out and about you realize, ‘Oh, thank God nobody lost their house.’ Now we’ve got another guy who has to leave his house because he realized it has shifted off its foundation. It’s still standing, but if anybody from around here looked at it, they could see that it has shifted. Somebody from away might not know, but he had to leave, and with all the debris in the harbour, because he is right on the harbour, the same things that are in the harbour are in his basement. They are under his house.”

Battiste-Farrell said she called around on Sunday evening, checking up on residents and making sure everyone was okay.

“My first call when I came back to work on Monday morning was a woman in her 80’s and she was telling me how scared she was. Even though her daughter and her son-in-law came in and removed her from her house, she said she never witnessed the likes. I could hear it in her voice and I was thinking to myself, ‘My mom was over with me. We were scared,’” shared Battiste-Farrell. “Then all these names started coming in my mind and I was thinking, ‘Did this person sleep? Was this one okay.’”

Adam Spicer experienced a part of the storm from a vantage point that most people wouldn’t dare to go. Spicer was on the boardwalk during the high tide and was shocked at the amount of water that was rolling in.

“I just wanted to come and look around. I didn’t think it was going to hurt anything. At the time it wasn’t really doing nothing. It was just coming in and going out,” said Spicer. “I was thinking, where is it going to stop at?”

Spicer said that as the sea rolled in, there was nowhere for it to go, so the water levels continued to rise.

“You had to be here to see it,” said Spicer.

William Rumboldt, 81, and his dog, Timber. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press

George Upwards returned to his home on a few days after Fiona, on Wednesday evening, Sept. 28, but he had been keeping tabs on what was happening in the meantime.

“I was seeing pictures coming in myself, on our tablets and on the news and everything.”

He even lost his vegetable garden.

“You really have to know it to be able to see and believe what’s happened here,” said Upwards.

William Rumbolt, 81, who lives on the waterfront in Diamond Cove, lost his storehouse during Fiona.

“We had to leave because we got water in the house, in the kitchen and the dining room. We went over to my son-in-law’s,” said Rumbolt.

The loss of the stage was significant because like many others, he used it to store things and those contents were washed away also.

“I had a lot of stuff in there, a lot of gear in there. Our house is badly damaged around. My roof is completely gone,” said Rumbolt.

Rumbolt says that he and his wife, Pearl, were afraid despite living alongside the water for decades.

“First time I’ve ever seen something like this.”

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