No home, no school: Pontiac flood victims hit with double whammy

Parents of hundreds of children in Pontiac, Que., are being told schools will remain closed the rest of this week — and perhaps longer — because of stresses on the western Quebec's sewage system.

Hundreds of school children off this week and possibly next

Callum and Ruby Maloney have been holed up in a west Gatineau hotel room with their mother since the family received a notice to evacuate their flood-threatened Pontiac, Que., home. (CBC)

Parents of hundreds of children in Pontiac, Que., are being told schools will remain closed the rest of this week and perhaps longer.

There are concerns the schools could put pressure on already-stressed sewage systems as communities in the western Quebec municipality struggle to deal with unprecedented flooding.

The English-language Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) has closed three schools: Quyon's Onslow Elementary, Chapeau's Dr. Wilbert Keon School. and St. John's Elementary in Campbell's Bay. 

A number of French-language schools are also closed.

"Parents are still having to work," empathized Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie, who's also a school commissioner with the WQSB.

"And with daycares and schools being closed, it's a real challenge for these families."

With many schools closed in Pontiac, Que., Mayor Mayor Joanne Labadie said school officials are trying to find other activities for local children. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

'Stressful but OK'

Many of those families have also had their homes damaged by the floods, or have been forced to leave because they live in evacuation zones. 

Labadie said in Quyon, the local family centre is trying to come up with some activities for children during the day while parents scramble to deal with their own personal catastrophes. 

But because of a shortage of local accommodations, some families who've received evacuation orders have had to leave the region entirely, which is the case for the Beaton-Maloney family. 

"Overall, it's been stressful but OK," said Lynne Beaton, the mother of four children between the ages of three and 10.

Lynne Beaton reads a story to her three-year-old son Griffin. Beaton and her children have relocated to an Aylmer hotel after being told they had to leave their home in Pontiac, Que. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Beaton and her children are holed up in a hotel room in Gatineau's Aylmer district, about 40 kilometres east of their home in Quyon.

She says without school, the family's routines are out the window. The children's father, Gavin Maloney, has stayed behind to take care of the house and their pets — three cats, two dogs and some rabbits.

"I miss my dad a lot," said eight-year-old Ruby. "Because he's all the way in Quyon, and I miss all my pets. And I'm just kind of, like, stressed."

"We were evacuated so fast, it was very, very hard," said 10-year-old brother Gavin, "I've worn the same clothes for three days."

Callum and Ruby Maloney stand in front of their home in Quyon on April 27. The family received an evacuation order two days later. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)
Lynne Beaton and her family are living in a hotel after being told to leave their home in Quyon, Que. Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie says over 100 residents have been asked to leave. 1:04

Dike collapse

Their home sits high and dry, right in front of a massive sand dike built by volunteers with the help of Canadian military personnel. 

The dike holds back floodwaters from the Ottawa and Quyon Rivers that have already inundated the adjacent town park.  

On Monday, one part of the sand dike collapsed nearby, sending volunteers and soldiers scrambling to build a new stone dike in front of it.

The collapsed led officials to go door-to-door asking families to leave immediately, but Maloney stayed behind. 

"They don't want to have to worry about anybody and I can understand that," Maloney told CBC over Facetime from his blocked-off home. "They're just doing their job."

He said he misses the kids, but he's glad they're safe and sound.