A pile of flood-damaged furniture and personal belongings behind the Mariner apartment building in Comox was still growing Tuesday after 17 units were damaged by a flood last week.

“I woke up to a knock and there was three inches of water covering the entire surface floor of my apartment,” recalled Tianna Franklin.

“We opened the door to the hallway and there was like a foot of water just came into our apartment,” added Kristine Harper.

The flood happened after a Town of Comox water main broke about a block away and the water ran downhill right into the first floor of the building.

“I opened the door because I heard people in the hallway and the landlord was out there snow shovelling water out the door,” said Tyler Crochet. “There was a good foot of water out there just flooding into our apartment.”

Major work has been underway since the flood to remove the tenants, their property and then to remove wet carpeting. In insurance terms, it’s a being called a large loss and will take months to repair, beginning with opening up the walls to see what kind of damage there is.

“If we continue the progress we’re making right now then will be able to start abating, which means asbestos, over the next four weeks,” said Drew Ratcliffe, vice president, finance for ARPEG Holdings, which owns the building.

Ratcliffe says it could take at least six months before the units are habitable again. This has left the affected tenants scrambling to find a place to live in a rental market that is already extremely tight.

Many of the residents are low income and were already paying some of the lowest rents in town.

“There’s no word of anything else available,” said Harper. “We’ve gone to other resources and so far everyone is told us there’s a mattress on the floor at the homeless shelter, but I can’t take my child there.”

Only one tenant had renter’s insurance and the Town says since it was an insurable event there might not be much financial help available to the others.

“Unfortunately, there’s also no mechanism at the provincial level to help these people, so we’ve been giving them different contact numbers for local people to help with some food and clothing to help them transition to a place to stay,” said Comox Mayor Russ Arnott.

“The priority is not pointing fingers on liability at this point, in my opinion, the insurance companies will do that behind the scenes. The people here are our priority,” said Ratcliffe.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the residents. A link to it can be found here.

Dean Stoltz