Montreal

Wading through floodwaters for groceries, Rigaud residents feel abandoned

Some people in Rigaud say they want the road raised or a boat shuttle service to get in and out of the residential area. But the town says that's not going to happen.

Couple refuses to leave pump unattended for fear their basement will fill with water

Francine Sabourin had to wade through floodwaters to get groceries on Monday. She and her neighbours are feeling burned out by the spring flooding. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

A 71-year-old resident of Rigaud, Que., spent her Monday hoofing across a field, wading through a flooded road and then trudging all the way back again with a bag of groceries clutched in each hand.

"My bag was very, very full. The other bag also," Francine Sabourin told CBC. "I tried to take as little weight as possible but, at the same time, it all ends up pulled down by gravity."

She said she had no choice. She had run out of food and there's no other way to get to the store as her Rigaud-sur-le-lac neighbourhood is cut off from the rest of the town by flood waters.

Her neighbours are struggling as well. Veronica Davies and her husband have managed to protect their home in Rigaud from spring flooding this year, but the fight has been exhausting.

"It's horrific," said Davies. "Emotionally we're gone, but physically we're here and you know we sleep three hours, six hours, two hours, one hour."

Rigaud, Que., located west of Montreal on the Ottawa River, has been hard hit by this year's spring flooding. Many have abandoned their homes. Others are still fighting back. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

And there's no escape. The couple's neighbourhood is cut off from the rest of town by high waters. 

Some residents say they feel abandoned by Rigaud's municipal administration. They want the road raised or a boat shuttle service to get in and out of the area.

But the town says that's not going to happen. It won't force them out, but it's not going to help them stay either.

"Unlike 2017, we did not force evacuations, nor did we prevent people who voluntarily contravened the order given by the Rigaud fire department," said town spokesperson Marie-Andrée Gagnon in an email to CBC.

"However, we have always told them that they act knowingly and at their own risk."

Gagnon said there is no plan for the residents who are staying in their homes, other than to ask them to evacuate because water levels of the Rigaud and Ottawa rivers are still fluctuating.

The town is offering accommodation and food until the situation is resolved, she added, but shuttling people in and out of flooded areas isn't in the cards.

Veronica Davies says her basement could fill with a metre of water if her pump fails, so she's staying to keep an eye on the machine. But she's feeling the pressure and wants the town to help. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Municipal authorities may want Davies to flee, but she says that's not possible. There's a pump running around the clock to protect her riverside home.

There's only an inch of water in their basement at the moment, but if that pump suddenly burns out, she and her husband will only have minutes to act to prevent their basement from becoming an unwanted, indoor swimming pool filled with murky water from the Ottawa River.

They plan is to stay and fight, but the fight is hard. Without any kind of respite, the couple says they may be the ones that eventually burn out.

With files from CBC's Simon Nakonechny

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