Quebec flooding forces almost 1,700 from their homes

Flooding from the spring thaw and rain has affected more than 2,500 homes in Quebec and 1,700 residents have been forced to leave, according to the latest numbers by Urgence Québec. Hundreds of Canadian soldiers were helping volunteers fill and stack sandbags.

New Brunswick, Ontario also dealing with water issues from spring thaw, rain fallout

Residents of Île Mercier in Montreal wade through floodwaters carrying some essential supplies on Monday. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Flooding from the spring thaw and rain has affected more than 2,500 households in Quebec and almost 1,700 residents have been forced to leave their homes, according to the latest numbers by Urgence Québec.

Soldiers across the province were filling and stacking sandbags as officials warned floodwaters are likely to keep rising this week due to warming temperatures, combined with rain.

Hundreds of volunteers and municipal workers are also working to protect properties.

At least one death can be attributed to the flooding thus far. A woman in her 70s was killed early Saturday morning in Pontiac, Que., about 50 kilometres west of Ottawa, when she drove into a massive hole created after floodwaters washed out a road, Pontiac's mayor Johanne Labadie said.

Urgence Québec said Sunday there were five major floods affecting residents in 51 different municipalities, including in the Montreal region, where officials are keeping a close eye on Mille Îles River and the Rivière des Prairies — stacking sandbags and building makeshift dikes.

On Monday afternoon, Urgence Québec said a total of 2,549 houses were flooded and another 1,565 were isolated by flooding, making them inaccessible by road. 

Many roads are closed and evacuations were in progress Monday morning in Quebec's Beauce region, where the Chaudière River at one stage on Saturday was rising by about 20 to 25 centimetres per hour.

In downtown Sainte-Marie, almost 1,000 homes have been affected. Parked cars were submerged in some areas and boats were used to rescue residents trapped in their homes. Electricity to much of the area has been cut.

Mayor Gaétan Vachon said the river seems to be receding now, but slowly.

"It went down a foot or two, but it does not go down quickly," he said. "In the space of six hours, it may have dropped by an inch."

In Scott, streets were closed and the city centre has been paralyzed. Two hundred residences were evacuated Sunday morning. Mayor Clément Marcoux said he doesn't recall the flooding ever being this serious.

Premier François Legault, centre, surveys the damage Sunday from the spring thaw flooding affecting over 2,000 homes and over 1,200 residents. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Touring areas of Gatineau hit by flooding on Monday, Quebec Premier François Legault reiterated his government's new program to incentivize Quebecers to move from flood-prone areas.

He said that the program, announced last week, would save taxpayers money in the long run.

"With global warming, these events are happening more often than in the past," he said. 

"So we must be able to adjust our [compensation] program, and that's what we're doing."

Quebec is 'there and will be there' for its citizens

Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault was out meeting with municipal and military officials near Trois-Rivières, Que., in Yamachiche on Monday.

"Our government is there and will be there," she assured the hundreds of residents who are or will be affected by flooding in the coming days as waters continue to rise in some areas.

"The safety of our citizens is our number 1 priority."

Emergency workers used a boat to help residents Saturday in Sainte-Marie, Que., where 500 people have been forced from their homes. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Guilbault encouraged residents to co-operate with authorities and leave their homes should a mandatory evacuation order be announced.

Respect their instructions, she said, and Quebec will be there to assist residents once the flooding subsides with its new reclamation program — a program, she said, that allows residents to make claims faster than ever before.

No homes evacuated in Montreal yet

In Montreal, no buildings were evacuated overnight, according to Martin Guilbault, chief of operations at the Montreal fire department.

But that doesn't mean people can relax, he added, as more rain is on the way.

Dikes were put in place in high-risk areas and about 30 soldiers are on the island, offering assistance Monday to residents of Île Bizard and the municipality of Sainte-Geneviève.

"For us right now in Montreal, the situation is stable," Martin Guilbault said. "We're monitoring every minute what's happening. We're still asking people to help us help them."

He said although there are temporary dams, people are being urged to put sandbags around their homes.

Guilbault said he has seen neighbours helping each other and wants that community spirit maintained before the situation gets worse. With more rain on the way this week, the water could rise further, he added.

"Even if the water is not yet over the street, the water will come. It's important to prepare ourselves."

West of the city, officials in Rigaud, Que., have also been gearing up for what could be several days of high waters and flooding. 

At this point, Rigaud fire Chief Daniel Boyer hesitated to predict when the water would recede as there is more rain in the forecast this week.

He warned people to stay away from the murky, cold floodwater as there is still ice, branches and debris churning in the overflowing waterways.

Red Cross launches fundraiser

The Canadian Red Cross, with a website open for donations, has launched a disaster relief fund to add to provincial help for residents.

Money from the online fundraiser will help residents rebuild their homes, said Pascal Mathieu, vice-president of the Red Cross in Quebec.

Red Cross relief centres have been set up in Gatineau, Laval, Montreal's Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, Rigaud, Saint-André d'Argenteuil and Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce.

Troops were on their way to Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce on Monday afternoon.

Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault says citizen safety is the province's number one priority as she spoke to reporters outside of Trois-Rivières, Que. (Radio-Canada)

"The authorities have said there are already hundreds of people affected and the water continues to rise," said Mathieu.

"We know that among the families affected, there are those who really need additional help."

Approximately 4,000 volunteers have been trained to offer comfort and lodging and provide food for those in need, and refer people to social services.

Volunteers in red jackets have been deployed for a week in Beauceville. Others are in Lévis, Saint-Raymond, Gatineau, Rigaud, Laval and Pierrefonds-Roxboro.

New Brunswick, Ontario also waterlogged

Quebec isn't the only province dealing with spring flooding.

In neighbouring New Brunswick, about 120 Canadian soldiers have been deployed to help with sandbagging in communities affected along the St. John River.

Fifty-five roads and bridges in the province are affected, with 36 of them either closed of partially closed. 

Aerial view of the flooding in Ottawa and the Outaouais.

3 years ago
Duration 1:26
Aerial view of the flooding in Ottawa and the Outaouais.

In Ottawa, the Ottawa River is rising and the capital city has put out a call for volunteers to help shore up at-risk areas.

Environment Canada predicts temperatures in the teens for much of the week, with a chance of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The higher temperatures will accelerate the melting of the snowpack, and could raise water levels along the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers, authorities say.

With files from Radio-Canada and CBC Montreal's Daybreak


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