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'We can't move ahead,' Family stuck in limbo after hurricane destroys home

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Hurricane Fiona is one of the most catastrophic events to hit Atlantic Canada; weeks later, many have found their insurance won't cover the damage.

"We're hearing more often of insurance companies turning them down," said Brian Button, mayor of Port aux Basques. "We are hearing more denials than we are of the positive coverage."

As homes in the small Newfoundland coastal town were ripped from foundations and pulled out to sea, people like the Savery family, who moved to the town from the Barrie area three years ago, are still searching for answers.

A photo of their iconic blue home teetering on the edge of a cliff was shared worldwide, capturing the moment before it was torn apart by wind and waves.

An Ontario family's iconic blue house is swept away in Hurricane Fiona's path in Port aux Basques, N.L. (Courtesy: R. Roy Wreckhouse Press)

Peggy Savery said she initially understood that her claim was denied, but on Wednesday was told it's still up in the air.

After receiving a letter on October 8, that stated in part, "We reserve the right based on your insurance policy terms and conditions to close your file without compensation regardless of whether the investigation has to be completed or not."

"They know they are the reason why we can't move ahead," said Savery. "To find out that we're being held up even longer because of our insurance company is very frustrating."

She said until she knows one way or the other, her family is stuck in limbo and applying for any federal or provincial disaster relief.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), storm surges are not typically covered by insurance, even with an add-on policy to cover floods.

"The risk modelling for storm surge and what causes the ocean to enter homes and properties, that modelling needs to be further developed," said Amanda Dean, vice president of Atlantic IBC.

The situation is exposing gaps in an industry trying to catch up as disasters become more frequent and unpredictable.

"That's why our industry is so motivated to sit at the table with government and talk about private and public partnerships in order to help those who are at the highest risk," said Dean.

In the meantime, the road to recovery is littered with more questions than answers.

"Back in the day, it was necessary to build the homes by the sea, but is it today? That's the question we have to ask ourselves," said Button.

As many wait to see what provincial and federal support they may qualify for, a GoFundMe campaign for the Savery's has raised nearly $50,000.

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