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1996: Saguenay flood forces mass evacuation

For two days in July 1996, torrential rains pounded the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec and caused the worst flood in the province's history. The floodwaters were so powerful they swept away a whole shopping complex, ripped apart homes and buried cars under mud. Scientists said it was a natural disaster likely to happen once every 10,000 years. The government called it "an act of God."

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Rushing floodwaters and mudslides force thousands in Quebec's Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region to evacuate their homes. The flood is an aftermath of torrential rains caused by a hurricane. Meteorologists refer to it as a weather comma -- named after its distinctive shape.
In 36 hours, 150 millimetres of rain falls upon the region's cities, towns and villages. The hardest hit are residents in Jonquière, Chicoutimi and La Baie. Eight people are dead.

The region is without electricity and running water, and sewage floats in pools of floodwater. Damages amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Over the past two days residents have been afraid to go to bed, worried that another deluge may sweep their homes. Now they're sleeping in tents or on a gymnasium floor at CFB Bagotville in Chicoutimi.

Premier Lucien Bouchard brings news of a $200-million fund from Quebec's special cabinet meeting, but it's too early to tell when and where the money will come from.

• The amount of water that fell during the two-day torrential rains was equivalent to that which tumbles over Niagara Falls in four weeks.

• In total, the disaster brought 280 millimetres of rain, along with violent thunderstorms.

• The bulk of the rains fell between 8 a.m. on July 19 and 10 p.m. on July 20.

• The region's river, lakes and bays swelled above capacity and unprecedented flooding ensued.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: July 22, 1996
Guest(s): Lucien Bouchard, Marcel Masse
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Ron Charles, Lynne Robson
Duration: 4:56

Last updated: July 22, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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