PRINCETON, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Mario Loutef had little sleep over the four days leading up to Saturday, when he piled his ruined belongings in the street outside his home in Princeton, B.C.
A vast swath of the downtown in the community two hours south of Kamloops was decimated when the Tulameen River overflowed its banks, flooding homes and forcing people to evacuate.
The community still remains on an evacuation alert but for many, like Loutef, the damage couldn't get any worse.
"It turned the corner and then it was like a tsunami because it filled up the little streets on the way here. But once those were taken care of that's when the water took care of my space and everybody else on the road," he told The Canadian Press.
A think coat of black mud has covered everything on the first floor of the home. Loutef has been working around the clock since he was allowed access. Boards have been ripped off walls, a dirty line about 2 metres up on the wall shows how high the water rose..
"I lost everything. We lost everything, the wife and I. I don't know where to start. I don't know where it's going to end," said Loutef, who has lived in the home for the past four years.
"I'm trying to save my tools, which is my bread and butter, because if I don't have that I can't make the revenue. I'm pretty much in the slop...pun intended."
Streets in the area are closed to traffic. Suction trucks are trying to remove standing water from some basements. The streets and sidewalks are covered in mud.
"It's like a one man battle," said Loutef, who was working alone.
"I remember my wife saying, 'Don't forget to remove your shoes,' so I'm going to have to show her. She didn't want to come down here because she's undergoing a shock. She said no smoking in the house too," he said, flicking a cigarette butt onto the floor.
Piles of debris can be seen everywhere, but Lisa Brosseau and her husband Brian Quinn had friends come over to help.
Brosseau said despite having their basement flooded she feels lucky because a previous owner had raised the home after a flood 35 years ago.
"We had a new Airbnb suite and that's gone, but the rest of our house is good. It never came into the top. We have our house. Many people around here don't and it's really difficult," Brosseau said.
Quinn pointed out where the water entered the basement.
"You can see it came down the back door and blew the door open and ripped the doorframe apart, and inside it swirled like some sort of vortex, and everything was all wrapped up and wrecked," Quinn said, pointing into the basement.
"The power of water is unbelievable."
Brosseau said she was worried there was going to be a flood despite sandbagging efforts and saw her fears come to pass.
"We were right down the street and there was a boom and a pop and it came over the banks," she said.
Many residents of Princeton were going from house to house offering a hand to those who were not so lucky.
"Our town is amazing," said Britanny Antonick.
"It's devastating. I think it's just all shock right now still. All the basements are just all completely saturated. We're just trying to do the best we can."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2021.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press