Earthquake sweeps away cabinet-maker’s dream

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by admin on July 8, 2010

By Marketa Stastna

When the 5.0 magnitude earthquake hit the region June 23, most of the damage was barely noticeable, with some damage to buildings near the epicentre, pinpointed to be Val-des-Monts, Que.

But when the quake triggered a landslide toward 69-year-old retiree Raymond Voyer’s cabin near Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette, it swept away a dream. The slide blocked the flow of a creek nearby, turning it into a lake and submerging Voyer’s property in 25 feet of murky water.

“The dream is over for me here,” said Voyer, a former cabinetmaker with the National Archives of Canada. “Something like this kills you on the inside,” he added, his voice audibly shaken as he viewed the altered landscape.

Voyer built his cabin more than twenty years ago, using his skills as a craftsman to make his chalet a perfect place in which he and his wife and two granddaughters could relax.  His fully equipped cabin is now floating in the valley, and the damage is estimated at $150,000.

What used to be a two-bedroom chalet, furnished with hand-made pine furniture, now shows only a rooftop as it floats approximately 15 feet from its original site. As Voyer dipped the paddle of his boat deeper into the water as we circled the lake, he alerted me to the roof of a new shed he built only last month.

Above the tin roof, he explained he was storing pine and maple lumber for new projects in the shed, along with his sawmill blades and equipment.

“He is an extremely skilled craftsman who can easily build you (everything from) an 18th-century armoire to a 4,000 square-foot home to put it in,” said Daniel Roberge, a  friend who helped Voyer with the post-quake cleanup.

When Voyer steers  the boat toward the chalet, he sweeps the paddle over the area where his five-year-old excavator and a tractor sit under the water.

“It’s an old tractor, but a nice tractor,” he said, continuing our tour above the chalet. He said the two submerged machines were worth $50,000.

Not far from his garage, fallen debris block the flow of the creek. When the earthquake hit, about 40 acres of land collapsed and created a massive crater. The dirt and the uprooted trees and bush formed a blockade that extends for approximately two kilometres. Voyer estimates the water’s rise as approximately one foot per day.

Despite the significant damage, he said his insurance won’t cover any of the damage, since the earthquake was an “act of God.”

Voyer said he is hoping for some level of government to come to his aid. He has already learned his chances of compensation are seriously decreased by the fact his chalet was not his permanent residence.

Looking at the disaster area, all Voyer wants now is to pull out his two machines and salvage all that he can. Given the circumstances, he does not want anyone to take any risks going under the water. Regardless of what he manages to salvage, Voyer says he would not rebuild on the same site.