Montreal flood victim spends days cleaning house at risk of collapse after inspection mix-up

The City of Montreal is warning flood victims to pay close attention to safety precautions before they return home, but one family says confusion with the inspection team left them in serious danger.

City spokesperson says records show firefighters noticed cracks, advised homeowner against returning

The pressure of the flooding cracked the foundation of this house on Île Bizard, but the homeowners didn't realize how dangerous it was until they'd already spent two days cleaning up inside. (CBC)

The City of Montreal is warning flood victims to pay close attention to safety precautions before they return home, but one family says confusion with the inspection team left them in serious danger.

The front door of Île Bizard resident Tauseef Bhatti's home has a bright red notice on it, stamped with the Montreal fire department's emblem. 

It reads: "Please do not remove until the Service de sécurité incendie has given you authorization to do so."

When Bhatti discovered the notice on his door Sunday evening, he flagged down a group of firefighters to ask what it meant.

"They said it's not liveable, but you can go in and do your stuff [and] start to clean up."

That's exactly what he did for the next two days.

It wasn't until Tuesday that he learned he should have never stepped inside. 

Tauseef Bhatti and Weena Sehar are angry that they risked their lives trying to clean out their home, not realizing that it was at risk of collapsing. (CBC)

He said he was in the middle of emptying out waterlogged debris when his wife, who'd left to go search for volunteers, phoned him in a panic.

"She called me. She said, 'Come out of the house right now!' She was really, really upset. She was crying."

She told him she'd spoken with a firefighter, who said it wasn't safe.

"They said, 'What are you doing inside the house? You're not even supposed to be inside the house,'" Bhatti says, adding that the firefighter sent another inspector to their house, who looked it over and told them it wasn't safe. 

"He got out of the house as fast as possible. He said, 'I don't even feel safe even to stand inside the house.'"

Bhatti said his home's floors already sagged a bit before the flood, and there were some visible cracks on the side of the building. But he says it wasn't nearly as severe as what he saw after the flood.

"I wouldn't be living in this house with my kids if it was a concern.… I wouldn't jeopardize the life of my family to live in some place where the foundation [is at risk]."

He said when they were cleaning up inside after the flooding, he saw the extent of the damage and was concerned, but he trusted the inspectors' advice.

City says firefighters noticed cracks on 1st visit

A spokesperson for the City of Montreal said according to their records, inspectors evaluated Bhatti's home at 7:10 p.m. on Sunday and noticed cracks in the basement.

According to city records, inspectors told Bhatti that he should not move back into the residence.

Bhatti says that's true, but says they also mentioned it was stable enough for him to go inside to clean. 

He's angry that after his family narrowly escaped the rising flood waters, they were needlessly put in danger a second time during the clean-up.

"They risked our lives, they risked our friends lives," Bhatti said.

Tauseef Bhatti snapped this photo of his basement when he was cleaning out the debris. (Submitted by Tauseef Bhatti)