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Residents pick away at ice jam

But freeing vehicles from lot slow going

Vanessa Singh walks back to her apartment with large pots that she filled with boiling water and poured on her tires to try to free her car from the icy parking lot.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Vanessa Singh walks back to her apartment with large pots that she filled with boiling water and poured on her tires to try to free her car from the icy parking lot.

Residents of a Maples apartment complex whose vehicles are frozen in a flooded parking lot are feeling left out in the cold.

Rupinder Dhaliwal stands on a block of ice next to his vehicle in the frozen parking lot.

Enlarge Image

Rupinder Dhaliwal stands on a block of ice next to his vehicle in the frozen parking lot.

Extricating their vehicles from the icy grip was still a problem Thursday.

The only good news they received is their water was turned back on. Early Tuesday, a water-main break flooded their parking lot and the water had to be turned off.

Water turned the parking lot into a pond about 25 centimetres deep. The water quickly froze about halfway up the tires of some of the vehicles. The lot contains about 37 vehicles.

The City of Winnipeg said it's not responsible for getting the vehicles out of the ice.

Manitoba Public Insurance said the responsibility rests with the manager of the apartment complex and the tenants themselves.

MPI said claims can be filed once the vehicles have been removed.

Maryanne Katyrynuik, who lives in one of the apartments, went out to the parking lot around 5 a.m. on Tuesday ready to drive to work. The water level from the break was over her boots and it was too late to get her car out.

She filed a claim with MPI the same day, which then contacted Dr. Hook Towing.

"When (Dr. Hook Towing) called me back I asked them if they knew the tires were frozen to the ground and they said no," Katyrynuik said. "Then they told me they couldn't do anything until the weather started to warm up."

Temperatures are expected to warm up today, but even at the forecast high of -10 C, melting won't take place.

Dr. Hook Towing did not return calls Thursday.

As of Thursday, it was not yet possible for a tow truck to get into the parking lot. The lot is full of vehicles and is long and narrow, with an entrance at only one end, meaning the space is too cramped for a tow truck to navigate.

Globe General Agencies, in charge of the Northwood Oaks apartments, was working with a private snow-clearing company Thursday to dig out the frozen lake. The company brought in an excavator.

"We're trying to clear the ice so that tenants can start to remove their cars in whatever way they see fit," said Ron Penner of Globe General Agencies.

He said they can't help tenants move their cars because they aren't mechanical experts and they don't want to cause any more damage.

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said compensation for damage will be paid once claims are filed. The cost of towing will only be paid if there is vehicle damage, he added.

Smiley said people should leave it to recovery companies to move their cars.

"People need to be very careful when they're moving them, so as not to cause any more damage," he said.

Another resident, Vanessa Singh, spent hours in the cold freeing her car. Her brother and some friends chipped away at the ice and used buckets of hot water to try to free the tires. One of their friends managed to pull the car out.

"The back wheel on the driver's side is still frozen," Singh said. "When I drove the car to (the Shell car wash) to try and fix it, I don't know how to explain it, but it was like I was driving on a tilt because the wheel won't move. It's dangerous."

Hydraulic heating is another option.

But Dana Thomson, operations manager at United Rentals, said ground heaters take a long time and are costly. She wouldn't recommend using them in this situation.

In an emailed statement, the city said it is not "liable for loss or damage as a result of a break or malfunction of a water main unless it is established that the break, malfunction or failure was a result of negligence of the city or its employee."

Devi Sharma, councillor of the Old Kildonan Ward, said the water-main break came at a bad time. "The timing was not great, with the frigid temperatures and the holidays, but I'm glad that the crews were able to get out there right away and get it fixed," she said.

The city had to replace about a seven-metre section of pipe before it could turn the water back on.

Sharma said contacting MPI and filing a claim was a good first step for residents.

Transit buses returned to their normal routes Thursday.

veronika.gorlova@freepress.mb.ca

Should the city pay for damage to cars flooded by a water main break?
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