Île Mercier residents could be forced to leave, says Denis Coderre

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre visited the flooded community of Île Mercier in the city's West Island neighbourhood Friday and said the city may have no choice but to force residents to leave their homes.

Montreal mayor says road surface of island's only bridge is deteriorating, may force emergency measures

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre walks through the flooded streets of Île Mercier Friday, May 5, 2017. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre says the city may have no choice but to force residents of the flooded community of Île Mercier to leave their homes.

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

Coderre said a structural assessment of the only bridge connecting Île Mercier, which is currently underwater, to neighbouring Île Bizard found the road surface is deteriorating and may soon be unfit for cars and trucks to use.

"If people can't get over the bridge, we have to think about getting them out," Coderre said. 
Many residents of Île Mercier have expressed frustration with the City of Montreal's preparedness for the flooding that has hit their tiny community. (Charles Contant/CBC)

A decision on whether residents will be evacuated from the island is expected Saturday morning.

Île Mercier has been under a voluntary evacuation order and the residents of 19 homes have left, but residents in 27 others are refusing to leave.

Coderre said a forced evacuation order could be issued after he speaks with the city's fire chief. 

City response criticized

As Coderre spoke, island residents continued their work piling sandbags around their properties in a last-ditch bid to keep the rising water at bay.

The City of Montreal has faced criticism for its response to flooding in the community, notably with regards to the distribution of sandbags.

Île Mercier resident Helen Guilbault told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Friday that she's had a request in with the city since Wednesday for a pallet of sandbags, but they had yet to turn up.

"I was told no problem, the sandbags would be there [Wednesday] afternoon," she said.

When the sandbags didn't arrive, Guilbault called 311 and found herself on hold for 45 minutes. She eventually had to hang up.

"The city sandbags were never delivered," she said.

A shipment of sandbags makes its way to Île Mercier Thursday morning. Residents of Île Mercier and the neighbouring Île Bizard say the city should have done better with its distribution of the bags. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

Guilbault said part of the problem is other residents are directing city crews arriving on the tiny island to their homes instead.

'Doing the best that we can', says Anie Samson

In an interview with CBC on Friday, Anie Samson, the executive committee member responsible for public security, said the city "is doing everything that we can do" for residents affected by the flooding.

"All my people are in the field, they're working very hard, 24 hours a day," Samson said. "They contact the people, ask them if they want to go to the shelter, and we're providing them with sandbags."

When told about Guilbault's experience, Samson said she would look into it.

"I understand how they feel, but we're doing the best that we can," she said.

Samson also criticized the general manager of Montreal's Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, who ordered thousands of sandbags destroyed just prior to this week's flooding.

"That's very unacceptable and irresponsible," she said. 

Samson acknowledged that it's been a long time since the city was faced with this kind of flooding.

"It's all new for us. Mother Nature is very difficult to follow," she said.

"Nothing is perfect, but we tried to do everything that we can do to ensure people are secure."

Army on standby to help

Samson said Montreal's civil security bureau holds meetings every hour with officials to keep them informed about water levels, adding "they're working 24 hours a day."

Asked about an assertion by Canada's military that its personnel are ready to help if necessary, Samson said the city would welcome the assistance.

"I think we're going to need all the help we can have because this weekend it's not finished. If people want to volunteer to help, we're open to that."

Later in the afternoon, Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux announced the Canadian military will be deployed to the "most affected areas" across the province, but wouldn't say exactly where.

City response better in April, resident says

Guilbault said the city's response to some minor flooding on Île Mercier in April was much better organized compared to what she's seeing now.

"They brought sandbags and put them in front of every house," she said.

The only problem was city workers returned and took them away as soon as the water receded.

"But lakes up north were still frozen, and it appears people in charge down here weren't aware of that," she said.

On Thursday, the mayor of L'Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève, Normand Marinacci, admitted the borough made a mistake when it picked up residents' sandbags the first time.

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With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak