09/04/2012 05:19 EDT | Updated 11/04/2012 05:12 EST

Residents Face Long Wait For B.C. Landslide Stability Report

Geotechnicians are expected in Johnsons Landing, B.C., this week to assess the stability of a mountain of landslide debris, but residents face a wait of weeks or months to learn whether they can come home.

Two months ago, a landslide killed four people in the small Kootenay community, about 70 kilometres northeast of Nelson.

Johnsons Landing Recovery Manager Deb Borsos said the area is still considered a disaster zone, but a geotechnical assessment team will be working on the ground this week.

"The geotechs will be going in to do the stability reports, then there will be more known about how stable different properties are, whether it's likely to slide more or remain stable," she said.

"Based on that, different property owners will be able to go forward with properties that are part of the slide area."

Officials don't know what will happen when heavy rains or snow start to fall on the debris field, and residents don't know when — or if — they will be able to move back in and being repairing the community.

Stuck in limbo

Will Burt's family settled in Johnson's Landing half a century ago, and still owns two big parcels of land in the community.

One of the properties was untouched by the landslide, but the debris field tore right through the centre of the other and buried a home on it.

Burt has no information on what is to become of that land and, like many in the hamlet, is now facing a long, anxious wait before he knows how he can move forward.

"People would like to know answers — whether they will be able to come back to their land, if they'll be able to rebuild there, if the government will take away their land," Burt said.

"At this point it's all speculation. We haven't even been informed what the options are."

Borsos said it may take weeks or even months for the geotechnical report, and that means more waiting for property owners and residents of the hamlet.

The geotechnicians could also decide to do an assessment the area's long-term stability, which may involve observing water flows during the fall, winter, and spring.

The B.C. government said it also would conduct a review of the events leading up to the landslide after confirming the Forests Ministry received an email from an area resident in the hours before the slide about concerns that debris was clogging an area creek.

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