Major slide closes Rennell Sound road

  • Sep. 3, 2014 7:00 a.m.

About 40 campers were stranded in Rennell Sound Sunday night (Aug. 31) after a major landslide blocked the only road out. Port Clements resident Cari Manz, who had been camping for the Labour Day weekend with a group of Port residents, got out Monday evening after the road was partially cleared by an excavator. “Let me tell you, I am happy to be home,” she said. “No more camping this year.” Everything looked fine when she drove out to Rennell Sound Friday evening, she said, but the weekend was exceptionally rainy, with heavy precipitation all day Saturday and Sunday. By Sunday, the Clapp Basin camping spot looked like “a big giant mud bog”, she said. The group learned of the landslide when Port resident Matt Gaspar tried to leave Sunday evening and had to turn back. “He came back and said, we aren’t going anywhere,” Ms Manz said. The group had a marine radio, which they used to call for assistance. By Monday morning, Stan Maclean was working to clear the road with his excavator and Ms Manz and others were able to get out by around 4:30 pm. People were told to leave immediately while they had the chance, she said, and many of them had to leave behind trailers and boats. Larry Duke, district engineering and recreation officer, said the slide occurred Aug. 31 between 7 and 7:30 pm at the 11 kilometre mark, just before the big hill going down into Rennell Sound. The slide was about 50 metres wide and stretched more than 250 metres to the top of the hill where it originated, he said. There have been several landslides in the area, he said, but this was one of the largest. Mr. Maclean worked for five hours with his excavator Monday and managed to clear the road enough that those who wanted to leave could get out. Mr. Duke said all campers in the area were notified of the situation and warned that they might not be able to leave again for a couple of days. Some people who had already planned to camp for the week decided to stay, he said. As of Tuesday morning, the road remained officially closed, Mr. Duke said, with plans to keep working as long as the weather was good enough and get it open as soon as possible. Landslides are a risk on the back roads of Haida Gwaii during the rainy season, and Mr. Duke said everyone using these roads should be cautious as we move into fall.

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