Sanctuaries Destroyed: After Fiona, Burnt Islands residents seek a way forward

Paula Keeping lost her 24-year-old home to storm surge generated by Post-Tropical Storm Fiona on Saturday. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Paula Keeping stared at the ruins of her home, where she lived for 24 years, her hand over her mouth, tears streaming down her face.

« I lost everything, » the Burnt Islands resident said on Monday.

« You can’t even tell where my house was. There’s nothing there, just rock. That’s it. There’s no foundation there, nothing. »

His three-bedroom bungalow and everything inside has been reduced to a pile of rubble. She lost family heirlooms, including a ring belonging to her mother, who died 20 years ago. Keeping said she doesn’t know what her future holds.

« I don’t know where I’m going to start, » she said.

Keeping moved into the house when her daughter was nine months old. The sea has touched his home before, but never like this.

On Saturday, a storm surge generated by Post-Tropical Storm Fiona ripped the house off its foundation and destroyed it. Keeping’s home is one of nearly 100 – and counting – destroyed by Fiona as she drove through southwestern Newfoundland on Saturday.

The federal and provincial governments have pledged help – and Keeping said she is counting on that support as she rebuilds her life.

She doesn’t know where she’s going to go but she knows she won’t live on the coast of Fox Roost.

« I don’t know where I’m going to uproot myself and go, but it won’t be here, » she said.

« Really, really scary »

Bentley Taylor, nine, said he hasn’t felt safe since Saturday’s storm.

« It was really, really scary, and I really wanted to leave, » he said.

Bentley’s mother, Wanda, said she was terrified too.

« I don’t think I will ever feel safe here again, » she said.

A chest shot of a person wearing a black jacket. Behind him, to the left, is a red house, with debris strewn outside.
Wallace Kinslow’s house still stands, but is now uninhabitable due to water and structural damage. Soon, he says, the rot will start to set in. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

She braced for Friday night’s storm and parked her vehicle. When she saw waves crashing on her street on Saturday morning, she woke up her children and pets and they ran away.

His home, where his family has lived for 13 years, suffered some damage, but was spared the destruction suffered by others. Still, she said her family would not stay there.

« If you don’t trust him, if you don’t feel safe, I don’t see the point in staying, » she said in tears.

Need help

Burnt Islands Mayor Alfred Taylor said the damage was heartbreaking.

« What we’ve worked for all these years…destroyed, in minutes, » he said.

A photo of three people sitting in front of a yellow house. On the left, a person in a purple shirt crosses his hand. In the middle, a young teenager wearing a baseball cap folds his own. On the right, a boy is sitting on a bicycle.
Wanda Taylor and her sons, Ashton, 12, and Bentley, 9, no longer feel safe in their Burnt Islands home. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Taylor said recovery will be a long process for the community of about 600 residents. At least 30 fishing stops were missing and, according to MLA Andrew Parsons, at least a dozen homes were destroyed.

“You enter another world,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the city needs help cleaning and repairing roads, pavement and other infrastructure.

“A small community, without help, will never bounce back,” he said,

A house covered in seaweed and sand

Wallace Kinslow, who has lived on the Burnt Islands for 50 years, woke up on Saturday morning to his house shaking and water pouring through the door. He woke up his wife and sons and they fled.

The force of the storm surge twisted the structure of the house and the water damaged the interior beyond repair. Kinslow said after the storm, the interior was covered in kelp and sand.

He said the repairs would cost more than $100,000 – money he doesn’t have. Kinslow, who is retired, also does not have home insurance.

« We did this, me and the wife, so we could have a comfortable place [for] we. Our home, our retirement home. That was it,” he said.

Kinslow lives with his son and has registered with the Canadian Red Cross for housing assistance.

Kinslow said the Burnt Islands community is strong – it has weathered storms and the collapse of the cod fishery in the early 1990s before.

« It goes beyond what we’ve been through, » he said.

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