Montreal

Laval neighbours moved to tears after volunteers step forward to fight flooding

After Matt Foley said he was offered little aid by the City of Laval and the Canadian Armed Forces, he had no choice but to write a plea for help on Facebook this past Wednesday in hopes that strangers would step forward to lend a hand.

Over 1,500 people have offered their help through the West Island Flood Volunteers Facebook page

As flooding struck over 175 municipalities across Quebec, hundreds of volunteers came forward to help fill sandbags. (Submitted by Chris Paine)

With water seeping through the foundation of his house and closing in on his property, Laval resident Matt Foley was preparing for the worst.

Several homes on his street in the Fabreville neighbourhood had already fallen to the flood waters, which had been rising since the first week of May.

After Foley said he was offered little aid by the City of Laval and the Canadian Armed Forces, he had no choice but to write a plea for help on Facebook this past Wednesday in hopes that strangers would step forward to lend a hand.

And step forward they did.

A group of 30 volunteers from across the West Island, Outremont and Pincourt showed up in Foley's neighbourhood to build sandbag walls around houses after reading his story online.

"They worked with me in the dark, in waist-high water. We were carrying sandbags down the street in a boat, because it was the only way to get to the end of the street," said Foley.

"My neighbours were all in tears."

Residents use hundreds of sandbags and pumps to help keep water out of their homes. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

Foley told CBC Montreal's Homerun that the volunteers were there for him when the city failed to show up, adding it was days before blue collar workers showed up to his street.

"We were definitely neglected in Fabreville," he said.

Volunteer group born out of flooding

Foley's story of kindness is just one of many to come out of the weeks of flooding that has stuck over 175 municipalities across Quebec.

As flooding spread, Doug Liberman took the streets, ferrying people out of the flood zones in his truck and helping to build sandbag walls around houses and businesses.

He tried to reach out to the Red Cross, the police and fire departments to offer his help, but with limited success. 
A group of volunteers headed up to Laval to help build sandbag barriers in Fabreville. (West Island Flood Volunteers/Facebook)

"I realized quickly that those big institutions were doing their jobs, what they're set up to do, and that job is crisis management," he said.

"It's not their job to deal with volunteers."

So Liberman decided to create the West Island Flood Volunteers, a Facebook group that has since grown to just over 1,500 people all looking to help out in whatever way possible.

It was Liberman's group that stepped forward to help Foley's neighbourhood.

"It is the most amazing thing I've ever seen," said Liberman of the outpouring of volunteer support he's seen for flood victims over the last week.

"There's going to be a ton of volunteers who are going to want to do something, and they are going to have nowhere to go," Liberman told CBC Montreal's Homerun.

In some areas the flooding was so bad that residents were forced to use boats to navigate streets. (Submitted by Chris Paine)

Help still needed in weeks to come

Even as flood waters start to recede, volunteers from across the island of Montreal continued to work tirelessly, responding to urgent requests for help through the Facebook group.

"There was a daycare on Gouin saying 'the water is coming.' In 30 minutes, we had three trucks out there, we built a 50-foot wall and the daycare opened the next day," said Liberman.

"It's generosity beyond."

He says that even as the urgency of the requests ramps down, there is still plenty of need out there.

"There are ways that citizens can get together and solve problems immediately," he said.

With files from CBC Montreal's Homerun

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