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B.C. homeowners get closer look at flood damage thanks to pilot, photographer

Two friends are giving flood victims a first-hand look at the damage done to their property, for free.

When massive flooding hit B.C. earlier this week, forcing many to evacuate, a Vancouver-based photographer knew he wanted to help.

On Tuesday, Martin Gregus went to take some photographs of the damage. However, he quickly learned it was almost impossible to get anywhere. There were blockades left, right and centre. 

“Even the place I managed to get to, the highway from there was pretty much inaccessible," he tells Glacier Media. 

Gregus reached out to a pilot friend in Vancouver and the two hatched a plan to volunteer their time to document the flood from above.

“He said he’d take me up if I could pay for gas,” explains Gregus. 

Before heading out, he posted on social media that he would be flying over the Fraser River. Requests started coming in immediately.

"I took a few messages from people that wanted me to take some video of their property to see if they could even get to it or what is left,” he says.

Word spread fast that he would be able to show people the level of damage to their properties. 

"I’ve just been trying to play catch up.” 

Sumas Prairie homeowner Ben Oryall had to leave his home and says the past few days have felt like a year filled with every emotion. 

"It was hard to leave, we knew we didn’t have all the chickens and we were missing a pig and so we just couldn’t find them and we didn’t have time to wait and we were in a huge panic because the water levels were rising so fast,” says Oryall. 

Gregus offered to send him photographs of his property to see the extent of the damage.  

"It was really great to see that we could get a bit of a snapshot of the whole neighbourhood and what houses were going to be OK and which neighbours of ours were going to need more help than others,” he says. "It was nice to see that ahead of time and prepare yourself for what could be."

Gregus has had more than 100 requests from strangers, asking him to take photos of their home. People send him their address and he then sorts through his images and drone footage to try and match the locations. 

“Everyone, regardless if their place is safe or flooded, everyone is very appreciative to get that [imagery]. It’s almost like a customized look,” he says.

Flying over the Fraser River, the pair couldn’t believe what they saw.  

"It was... just unbelievable. You don’t really get the scope of it from the ground. You can see things are flooded but you don’t really,” he says. 

On Friday, Oryall was able to visit his property and says the damage is less than they were expecting.  

Both Gregus and his friend don’t expect anything in return and are happy to provide the images for free.

"I don’t expect anyone to pay anything. These people lost so much. I don’t expect anything in return,” says Gregus.