BRITISH COLUMBIA

Roof Collapse Sends 2 Tons Of Debris Into Surrey Townhome

09/23/2013 07:44 EDT | Updated 11/23/2013 05:12 EST
A family in Surrey says they are lucky, and grateful, to be alive after a simple change in routine spared them from being crushed by a collapsing roof Friday.

At around 6 p.m. PT almost 5,000 shingles left on the roof by contractors came crashing down into the townhouse.

Mergstab Berhane, standing in the entrance way to his home, pointed to where the stairs to the second floor used to be: "You can see the devastation in here," he said.

At the time of the collapse, Berhane's wife and three children were at home, in the kitchen. He says it is a miracle she changed their usual routine that day and that they weren't in the upstairs bathroom, where the bathtub was crushed.

"Usually she gives them a bath at six o'clock. That day, she gave them at four. If she'd done it the same way, I would have lost my three children and my wife at the same time," he said.

His wife, Netsanet, said she thought the collapse was an earthquake. "What do I remember? That terrifying noise," she said.

The Berhanes rent, and have no insurance to cover the loss of their belongings.

"It's hard. All the routine';s changed... Who's gonna be responsible for all our stuff? I don't have anything... our kids don't have anything," she said.

The family is sharing one bedroom together right now, staying temporarily with friends.

"Thank God, at least we have that. It's not the luxury things now, it's safety. It's my kids' safety," she said.

The roofing company and the buildings strata council are arguing over who's at fault. The roofing company believes the roof was structurally damaged to begin with, and the strata council has called in engineers to figure out who was at fault.

The roofing company has offered to pay for necessities, but it could be months before the townhouse is fixed.

Netsanet however, does not think she can live in the home again.

"No, I can't. I wish I could live outside forever," she said.

In the meantime, Berhane says the family is mostly thankful for the time they have together.

"It could have been worse. I'm grateful they are still alive," he said.

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