Quebec water levels have peaked, but a long road ahead, officials say
Nearly 4,000 homes flooded, according to newest provincial figures
- Galipeault Bridge on Highway 20 reopens in both directions
- Water levels stable or starting to drop, province says
- State of emergency renewed for five Montreal neighbourhoods
- Evacuations in Rigaud, west of Montreal, resume today
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says water levels in the province, which has been devastated by flooding over the past week, have peaked and should begin receding in the near future.
During a news conference in Montreal on Tuesday, Couillard said that while visiting different flooded areas, he has been trying to put himself in residents' shoes.
"I can understand the anxiety, angst people feel right now. I would feel the same, even some anger, if it were my home being affected," he said.
The latest numbers released on Tuesday evening by Urgence Québec show 3,883 homes are flooded — a jump of over 1,000 from the day before. Some 2,721 people have been forced from their homes.
1 homeowner got teary when he told me this is 1st day where water has gone down on this Laval street - "It's still awful but it gives hope." <a href="https://t.co/hJjS88k4ZJ">pic.twitter.com/hJjS88k4ZJ</a>—@salimah_shivji
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said while the situation won't improve right away, the water levels could be back to normal by the end of the month.
"There is hope ahead of us," he said.
Galipeault Bridge reopens
That first sign of hope came early Tuesday afternoon from the Transport Ministry, which announced the reopening of the Galipeault Bridge.
The span, which connects the island of Île-Perrot and Montreal along Highway 20, had been closed since Sunday evening due to high water levels.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government will assume the costs of deploying troops and supplying sandbags to battle the flood zones in Quebec and Ontario.
Couillard and Coiteux both urged Quebecers to donate to the Canadian Red Cross flood relief fund. Coiteux announced Monday the government will pay the non-profit organization's administration fees, so everything donated to the fund will go directly to helping those in need.
The provincial government is contributing $500,000 to the fund, while the City of Montreal intends to kick in $250,000 and the City of Laval, $50,000.
Couillard said he has made a personal donation to the fund as well.
Flood victims who need financial assistance can call the province at 1-888-643-2433.
Minister urges patience
Coiteux said the rate of water flow at the Carillon Dam, on the Ottawa River near the Quebec-Ontario border, is slowing — the first stage of waters receding in areas west of Montreal and in western Quebec.
"We have to be patient. It's not a situation that will improve right away," he said.
In Laval, on the island north of Montreal, 42 families are being taken care of by the Red Cross, according to Mayor Marc Demers. The city has been under a state of emergency since Sunday and will be for an undetermined length of time.
Elected officials voted to extend the states of emergency for Pierrefonds-Roxboro, L'Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève, Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Senneville, all on the island of Montreal, for five days.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said the measure was preventive, so city officials can act if required. While 243 homes have been evacuated, no one has been forced to leave, he said.
Rigaud, about 30 kilometres west of the island of Montreal, is also under a state of emergency. Mandatory evacuations resumed there Tuesday morning.
Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. said though he has been criticized for signing the evacuation order, he is fine with his decision.
"If at the end of all this, we get through this ordeal without loss of life, I will call that a success," he said.
Though the water levels are starting to drop, Gruenwald Jr. warned residents of the dangers associated floodwaters, which are very cold.
"I don't want citizens to think this is over. It's far from over," he said.
It's still unclear when people who have been forced out of their homes will be allowed to return.
The flooding has been linked to at least one death.
Provincial police said the road he was driving on had been closed due to flooding.
A two-year-old girl he was travelling with is still missing. His partner, who is the girl's mother, was also in the car. She was able to escape.
Unhappy with response
While municipal and provincial politicians and officials have defended the response to the rising waters, some flood zone residents are irate with the way things have been handled.
About 1,650 members of the Canadian Forces have been deployed across the province. They're assisting local emergency responders in efforts to shore up dikes, fill sandbags and other measures intended to fight the flooding.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance is visiting the flood zones in Pierrefonds, Rigaud and Gatineau on Tuesday to support the Forces members on the ground.
A number of schools in the Montreal area are once again closed today due to the flooding.