Île Mercier residents not forced to evacuate even as bridge closed to emergency vehicles

As of Saturday morning, the fire department says the bridge is closed even for emergency vehicles.

Spokesman from the Montreal fire department said it'd be 'preferable' if residents of flooded island left

Residents brace themselves against the current as they cross the flooded bridge on Île Mercier. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Three days of relentless flooding forced the closure of the only bridge connecting Île Mercier to the rest of Montreal on Saturday, but as of the morning, no mandatory evacuation order has been issued for the remaining residents who've refused to leave their homes.

The Island in western Montreal has around 50 properties, about 20 of which are still occupied, despite encouragement from first responders to leave.

On Saturday morning, a city engineer determined the bridge to the island had deteriorated to the point it's unsafe for pedestrians or vehicles to cross. Emergency vehicles are no longer crossing.

Bruno Lachance, spokesperson for the Montreal fire department, said at this point, it'd be "preferable" that all residents leave the island. Around 20 people have opted to stay in their homes in an effort to protect their property from more damage. 

Lachance says even though it's possible to access people in emergencies via boat, options for first responders are limited if there's fire or a medical emergency. 

"If there's a victim that needs to be transported, it gets complicated," he said.

Lachance added firefighters, police, blue collar workers and volunteers are working around the clock to prevent flood damage.

Edmund Amar and his son are among those choosing to stay in their home. Amar said he's worried insurance won't cover any costs incurred by the flooding. 

"It's hundreds of thousands of dollars for each one who lives there. You have to take care until the last minute," he said.

He's got sump pumps going in his basement, and so far, his home hasn't been too damaged. He said he'll only leave his home if he feels his health is at risk.

Bruno Lachance of the Montreal fire department says firefighters, police, and blue collar workers are working around the close to ease the damage caused by flooding. (Radio-Canada)

Mandatory evacuation possible

On Friday, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre warned the bridge connecting Île Bizard to Île Mercier was deteriorating under the constant flow of water.

The island has been under a voluntary evacuation order, but on Friday, Coderre warned the city may authorize a mandatory evacuation order.

"We're facing an imminent decision to enact emergency measures," he said. "We have the authority to issue such an order."

Neighbours pitch in 

Borough Mayor Normand Marinacci said his staff are receiving help from volunteers from across Montreal's West Island as well as people from Ontario and Montreal. He said people can get in touch with city staff if they'd like to help the flood relief effort.

In addition to the flooding on Île Mercier, western streets on Île Bizard are also flooded.

"It is not easy to see all these people fighting with water coming in their house," he said.

Follow CBC reporters with the latest on flood damage here.

With files from Simon Nakonechny