Que. increases funding for flood victims

The Quebec government says it is increasing financial assistance to flood victims in the Richelieu Valley.

Residents now get up to $150,000 in aid; businesses up to $200,000

Dominic Lareau carries some drinking water to his canoe through a flooded street along the Richelieu River on Monday in Saint-Paul-de-l'Île-aux-Noix, Quebec. Thousands of homes along the river are still flooded as the water slowly begins to recede. (The Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz)

The Quebec government says it is increasing financial assistance to flood victims in the Richelieu Valley.

Residents will now be eligible for up to $150,000 in aid, and the maximum support for businesses will increase to $200,000.

Public security minister Robert Dutil was in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. Tuesday to reassure evacuees they'll get the help they need to clean up and move back into their homes.

But with water levels receding two to four centimeters a day on the Richelieu River, Dutil urged them to be patient.

He said at that rate, those living right on the banks of the river could still face a long wait.

"It could take some weeks, for the last ones," said Dutil.

The government has already paid out more than $1 million to help some 400 families with emergency costs.

Dutil has asked cabinet to approve an increase in financial assistance for flood victims. The decree is similar to the one adopted last winter to support those affected by flooding in the Gaspé and the lower St. Lawrence.

Dutil's ministry has also set up a team to help deal with the aftermath of the flooding and to ensure public safety, especially concerns about wells tainted by raw sewage from damaged septic tanks.

The head of civil security for the region, Yvan Leroux, warns anyone returning home not to drink well water until public health authorities have deemed it potable.

"They will visit the municipalities and also the citizens in the next few days," said Leroux.

Residents in distress

Many anxious residents will find out when they'll be able to begin applying for financial aid at a meeting scheduled for Thursday night.

Gil Mailloux thought he had saved his property from the rising tides, but water seeped under his home and forced a 12-metre crack in his foundation.

The Saint-Blaise-sur-Richelieu resident said now he's dealing with mold.

"I really hope that the province helps us out...there has never been flooding like this before," said Mailloux.

Soldiers happy to help

Police work with Canadian soldiers in a flooded street along the Richelieu River as they check on residents. ((The Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz))
Canadian soldiers have been helping provincial police and disaster relief organizations to aid flood victims in the region since the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain overflowed their banks.

Soldiers have stopped filling sandbags for the moment and now have a reserve of 20,000 sandbags.

The military amazed townsfolk on the first day of their arrival when they converted a device normally used to salt roads into a sand bagger able to fill 100 bags in five minutes.

"If there is a demand, I am able to 'push' sandbags when the need arises," said Lt.-Col. Simon Bernard.

The military sent 834 soldiers to help distribute sandbags as well as provide other help and transportation, using large armoured personnel carriers.

"Helping our fellow citizens, it's fantastic," said Bernard. "We are always happy to go serve in Afghanistan, Bosnia or Haiti after the earthquake but there's nothing more rewarding, more gratifying than helping our citizens."

He noted that some of the soldiers had family living in the affected area.

With files from the Canadian Press