For Gaspé residents, memories of deadly flash flood still raw 10 years on

Rain rolled over the umbrellas of the crowd of 70 people that gathered to commemorate one of the worst floods Gaspé has ever seen. Ten years ago, two people died and millions of dollars in damage was incurred during the floods.

City will finish repairing damage floods did to its infrastructure this year

About 70 people gathered in Gaspé on Sunday to remember a deadly flash flood that happened ten years ago today. (Radio-Canada)

A downpour served as a stinging reminder of a fatal flash flood that struck the outskirts of Gaspé, Que., exactly 10 years ago.

Rain rolled over the umbrellas of the crowd of 70 people that gathered to commemorate one of the worst floods the city has ever seen, during which two people died and millions of dollars in damage was incurred.

This year, the city will finally finish repairing the damage done to its infrastructure.

On Aug. 9, 2007, about 115 millimetres of rain hammered the area, sending water into homes on Montée de Corte-Real Road and in the community of Rivière-au-Renard over a 15-hour period.

It was an "exceptional" deluge that Environment Canada says would not be expected to happen even once in a century.

"People were woken up in the middle of night because their mattresses were wet, because water had suddenly entered their homes," said Gaspé Mayor Daniel Côté during Sunday's ceremony.

The floodwaters, described as nightmarish and horrific, brought hours of terror to the unexpecting people living in the area. In some places, the waters rose by 1.5 metres. About 75 people were stranded due to fallen bridges.
The 2007 flash flood in Rivière-au-Renard and the montée de Corte-Real areas of Gaspé killed two people and damaged or destroyed four bridges. The city says it only expects to finish repairing the damage this year. (Radio-Canada)

Firefighters used boats to evacuate about 20 people during the night. In all, more than 250 people were forced to leave their homes.

'We think about it always'

The waters ripped several mobile homes from their yards, smashing one of them under a bridge one of four bridges that were badly damaged or destroyed.

Four people were inside the home at the time. Two of them died.

Henri Dupuis, 78, was confirmed dead the next day, while his 74-year-old wife, Marie-Paule Blanchette, was found by the Canadian Coast Guard off the coast of New Brunswick more than a week later.

Their granddaughter Geneviève Dupuis-Savage sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah at the commemoration marking the event. The family says the disaster still haunts them.

"We think about it always, as soon as we see a water event, a burst like that, we think of it even more," said Marie-Paule's sister, Raymonde Blanchette.
Germaine and Raymonde Blanchette lost their sister, Marie-Paule, when her mobile home was swept into the Morris River and smashed into a bridge in Rivière-au-Renard 10 years ago. (Radio-Canada)

Corine Adams remembers the storm striking her home in the Corte-Real area. "The bridge was gone. Someone's van was whirling around in the water," she said.

"It is an extremely bad memory," said Rivère-au-Renard resident Marcelle Plourde. "It was very hard. We lost everything."

Beyond Sunday's ceremonies, organized by the city, the municipality has also installed commemorative plaques in both the sectors that were affected.
Two plaques were erected along Corte-Réal and six were installed in Rivière-au-Renard. (Isabelle Larose/Radio-Canada)

Charles Aspirot, who was a city councillor at the time, says the disaster has left a permanent mark on the entire area.

"It's something that will go down in history. And not just [for] Rivière-au-Renard, but all of the Gaspé."

with files from Radio-Canada's Isabelle Larose