Dike breach in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac forces hundreds to evacuate

The breach has forced evacuations impacting more than 700 homes in the municipality west of Montreal. Quebec provincial police are sending 50 officers and a helicopter to help with the evacuations.

More than 700 homes affected so far but no injuries reported, official says

More than 200 Quebec police officers, three boats, a helicopter, and an ATV are assisting with evacuations in the municipality of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac west of Montreal. (Mathieu Daniel Wagner/CBC )

The force of the Lake of Two Mountains has breached a dike protecting Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac as the risk of severe flooding continues in the Montreal area.

The breach has forced evacuations in the municipality west of Montreal. More than 200 Quebec provincial police members, with the aid of a helicopter, an all-terrain vehicle and three boats are helping with the evacuations.

The dike, a permanent wall along the lake, breached Saturday evening.

"We think 700 to 800 homes are implicated," said Norbert Vendette, director of the fire department serving Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac and Deux-Montagnes.

Emergency responders have done a first pass of the affected area, and are now doing a second pass to ensure no one will be left behind.

Around 10 p.m., Vendette said the most severely flooded areas were covered in three to five feet of water.

No injuries have been reported so far, he said.

An official said more than 700 homes have been affected by the flooding. (Mathieu Daniel Wagner/CBC)

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces and members of 10 police and fire departments are also in the municipality as they work to get residents to safety and repair the breached dike.

"We knew right away something was wrong," said Lloyd Selinger, who has lived in the area for 40 years.

The resident of Deux-Montagnes was checking in on his brother in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac Saturday evening when he saw that Oka Road was backed up with emergency vehicles and people trying to leave the area. 

"They don't even have a minute," he said. "[The water] is coming in so fast."

Earlier Saturday, the municipality had put out a call for volunteers to help reinforce the dike.

Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said on Twitter that the evacuees will be housed at the Olympia Arena in Deux-Montagnes.

Vendette said some people are also being housed at the Deux-Montagnes Legion.

The municipality is asking residents to avoid using their toilets until further notice due to the risk of sewer backflow.

Some Rigaud residents defy mandatory evacuation order

Separately, the town of Rigaud, near the Quebec-Ontario border, has ordered residents in flooded areas to pack up and leave their homes, but some people are insistent on staying put.

William Bradley is one such resident, who is refusing to vacate his home despite a mandatory order from the municipality.

"It would be easy to leave," he said. "I don't think it's necessary."

The town of Rigaud, near the Quebec-Ontario border, has ordered evacuation of homes in flooded areas, but not everyone has complied. (Radio-Canada)

Bradley's wife, on the other hand, has opted to leave now that water has seeped into the couple's basement.

"The water tunnelled under the sandbag wall and got into the basement," Bradley explained. 

"​It was just redone too​," he added.

Watch drone footage of the flooding in Rigaud:

Get a bird's eye view of Rigaud under floodwaters

2 years ago
The drone footage was captured on April 23, 2019. 0:58

He says as long as his street is still passable, he doesn't see a reason to leave.

"You can walk on it. It's tricky, there's currents," he said, referring to the several feet of water in front of his house.

"It's like walking through pudding because of the current," he said.

He adds that his neighbours have been using a canoe to transport sandbags to and fro.

Rigaud, a municipality of about 7,600, issued mandatory evacuation orders to certain residents earlier this week.

Stay at your own risk, says town

On Saturday, Rigaud Fire Chief Daniel Boyer said that 172 homes in the evacuation zone are still occupied.

"Of​ten the wives and children have left and it's the husband who stays to defend the home," he said. "It's their decision to stay, but at their risk and peril​."

Even though the evacuation is mandatory, the town has said it won't be forcing residents to leave, meaning if people choose to stay, authorities cannot guarantee their safety.

"We have people who are fighting hard against the elements right now," he said.

Rigaud Fire Chief Daniel Boyer says residents are putting themselves at risk by refusing to obey evacuation orders. (Radio-Canada)

Boyer emphasized the risk homeowners are taking on themselves, saying that it will be difficult to get emergency vehicles out to flooded homes without some delays.

Water levels in the town 30 kilometres west of Montreal have not yet reached 2017 flood levels, and Environment Canada is predicting only periods of light rain until Tuesday.

Along with city workers and members of the Armed Forces, Quebec provincial police are patrolling flood areas to make sure no empty homes are robbed or looted.

Whether on not they choose to evacuate their homes, Rigaud residents are being advised to turn off all electricity where water can get in and secure propane tanks.

1,795 evacuated across the province

Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said Saturday that her office is monitoring water levels across the province and that she's particularly concerned about Rigaud and neighbouring Pointe-Fortune.

Across the province she said there are currently 3,050 flooded homes and 1,795​ people have been evacuated, as of Saturday morning.

Guilbault said the situation is under control in the Mauricie region, the Centre-du-Québec region, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches. The situation has also stabilized in the Beauce.

The municipality of Vaudreuil-Dorion declared a 48-hour state of emergency Saturday, as a result of flooding from the Outaouais river.

A state of emergency is also in place on the island of Montreal. The state of emergency gives the city the power to seize land, order mandatory evacuations and put in place other flood prevention measures.

Quebec Premier François Legault said in a news conference Saturday afternoon that safety is the first priority and citizens should avoid taking any unnecessary risks. 

"I'm asking all Quebecers: When you're asked to leave, it's for your security. We'll take care of the assets after."

With files from Colin Harris, Marilla Steuter-Martin and Radio-Canada