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‘The river just took it under’: B.C. family can only watch as flood sweeps away home | CBC News

A family from Merritt, B.C., is reeling but thankful to be safe after watching their home collapse into a river and get swept away in the major flooding that hit southern B.C. earlier this week.

“It was like one minute we were sandbagging, and I looked up and we were completely surrounded in water and debris, and things of our property were floating by us,” Pam Velt said.

“It was awful.”

She and her husband, Paul, spoke with CBC’s Heather Hiscox on Wednesday, two days after they lost the farm they shared with their son.

Record-breaking rainfall has led to widespread flooding and several mudslides across the southern half of the province in recent days. One woman was confirmed dead on Tuesday after a mudslide swept across a portion of B.C.’s Highway 99 near Lillooet.

All 7,000 of Merritt’s residents were ordered to evacuate the city, located about 200 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, shortly after 10 a.m. PT on Monday after flooding from the Coldwater River caused the complete failure of the municipality’s wastewater treatment plant.

Pam Velt said the family woke up early Monday to discover the bottom field of their property, which sits on a riverbank and covers a couple of acres, was starting to flood.

“My son and I were starting to sandbag, and it just got worse and worse,” she said. “We were driving through several feet of water, trying to sandbag and save everything we could.”

House gone ‘within seconds’

Paul Velt said it was “unbelievable” how fast the water was rising.

When the family realized the ground was starting to erode underneath the house, “we grabbed what we could at the moment” and got out, Pam Velt said.

Paul and Pam Velt lost their entire farm in Merritt, B.C., to floodwaters on Monday. (CBC)

In video taken by their son, part of the house is shown collapsing into the fast-moving waters.

“The river just took it under, gone. Within seconds,” Paul Velt said.

The Velts were able to get out with their six dogs and most of their cats. Horses they were boarding were sent to safety before the flooding. The couple is now staying with Pam Velt’s father, and Paul Velt’s employers are providing a trailer on their property for the couple to stay next.

People have also generously offered clothes and food, Pam Velt said.

Even as they come to terms with their own losses, the couple said their thoughts are with others affected by the flooding.

“All our stuff that we gathered in 20-odd years, some of our albums were in that house — it’s all gone,” Pam Velt said.

“But we’re not the only ones. There are so many people out there that are in worse shape.”

City officials have said Merritt will remain under an evacuation order until the water situation is under control, which is expected to take at least until the end of the week.


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