The Nova Scotia RCMP provided a description Tuesday of the terrifying power of torrential floodwaters that took the lives of a man and two children early Saturday and left a youth missing.
Sgt. Rob Frizzell said the children were in a pickup truck that was trying to escape to safety at around 4 a.m. when a surge of water lifted it off a rural road.
He told a news conference that the torrent deposited the truck in a normally dry hayfield, which that morning had been transformed into a lake deeper than the height of a tractor trailer.
“To put it in context, when we first came to the scene, there was also a semi truck that had been pushed off the road … and the water level … was above the truck,” he said. “The sheer volume of that water would be quite significant.”
The RCMP announced that one child’s body was found in Brooklyn, N.S., on Tuesday morning, and they confirmed that human remains found Monday on a shoreline in a nearby county were those of the second missing child. The children were travelling with three other people who managed to escape when their vehicle was submerged in the rushing waters.
Premier Tim Houston said the province’s grief is growing as the toll from the flooding mounts. On Monday, the RCMP had announced that the body of a 52-year-old man from Windsor, N.S. — who was in another, nearby vehicle — had been found.
“It’s another incredibly sad day in what’s now been a series of sad days in this province. The entire province is sick with mourning … The tragedy that’s happened here is really unimaginable,” Houston said at the news conference in Windsor, N.S.
Search teams are still looking for a fourth missing person, a youth under 18 who was travelling with the 52-year-old man.
Torrential rain over the weekend dumped up to 250 millimetres of water on several parts of the province, washing out roads and bridges and causing widespread damage. Houston noted the floods are among a series of natural disasters to have hit the province in the past 12 months.
“In this province, we’ve shown we can handle a lot. We’ve had wildfires and hurricanes and another series of floods,” he said. However, he added, none of the damage compares to the loss of human lives in the weekend deluge. “I want the family to know how very sorry we are for their loss,” he said.
Frizzell said that when the storm surge hit near Brooklyn, a small community about 55 kilometres northwest of Halifax, the vehicles were “very close together” on the same rural route, fleeing their homes.
The sergeant said the child and the 52-year-old man were found within 50 metres of each other in the hayfield.
“They were within 100 feet of the vehicles,” said Frizzell, adding that one of the vehicles swept off the road was a large pickup truck and the other was an SUV. He said the second child was swept in tidal waters onto a shoreline in the next county, presumably carried there by the floodwaters and tides.
Police didn’t release the names or ages of the children, saying they were still being confirmed by the medical examiner’s office.
Frizzell said the search for the missing youth is concentrated in the same fields where the child was found on Tuesday.
Abraham Zebian, mayor of West Hants Regional Municipality, told reporters that news of the bodies being recovered was “bittersweet.”
“The news today will allow three families to have closure and our heart is still going out for the search for the fourth. Our entire community is with these families today. It’s been a hard couple of days, today especially,” he said.
A provincewide state of emergency declared on Saturday will remain in effect until Aug. 5, and on Sunday federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair approved a request from the province for continued assistance.