Quebec flooding forces evacuation of more than 2,500 homes – CBC News

Quebec flooding forces evacuation of more than 2,500 homes - CBC News
2,400 flooded homes in Quebec as rivers rise
Flooding from the spring thaw and rain has affected more than 2,500 homes in Quebec and almost 1,700 residents have been evacuated, according to the latest numbers by Urgence Québec.

Soldiers across the province were filling and stacking sandbags as officials warned floodwaters are likely to keep rising this week due to warming temperatures, combined with rain.

"People have built into the flood zones, have built into the flood plains, and thats a mistake because naturally these areas are going to flood normally, and even without global warming on top of it. Saying we shouldnt be building here is a step in the right direction," said St. Jacques.

At least one death can be attributed to the flooding thus far. A woman in her 70s was killed early Saturday morning in Pontiac, Que., about 50 kilometres west of Ottawa, when she drove into a massive hole created after floodwaters washed out a road, Pontiac's mayor Johanne Labadie said.

More than 600 soldiers are assisting homeowners and renters throughout the province, and on Monday afternoon a Canadian military cargo plane with supplies is scheduled to land at St. Hubert airport. Those supplies will be distributed based on orders from the Public Security Ministry.

Urgence Québec said Sunday there were five major floods affecting residents in 51 different municipalities, including in the Montreal region, where officials are keeping a close eye on Mille-Îles River and the Rivière-des-Prairies — stacking sandbags and building makeshift dikes.

"Weve seen some people its the second time theyve been hit in the last three years. Were reviewing the programs to make sure taxpayers dont pay too much for rebuilding places that will be touched often," he said. "We will give incentive to move."

On Monday afternoon, Urgence Québec said a total of 2,549 houses were flooded and another 1,565 were isolated by flooding, making them inaccessible by road. 

Many roads are closed and evacuations were in progress Monday morning in Quebec's Beauce region, where the Chaudière River is expanding beyond its banks at about 20 to 25 cm per hour.

Residents of Ile Bigras, which lies in the Riviere des Prairies between Montreal and Laval, said water levels have increased in the past few days. They have been told that Wednesday and Thursday will likely be the days when water is at its highest.

In downtown Sainte-Marie, almost 1,000 homes have been affected. Parked cars were submerged in some areas and boats were used to rescue residents trapped in their homes. Electricity to much of the area has been cut.

"It went down a foot or two, but it does not go down quickly," he said. "In the space of six hours, it may have dropped by an inch."

In Scott, streets were closed and the city centre has been paralyzed. Two hundred residences were evacuated Sunday morning. Mayor Clément Marcoux said he doesn't recall the flooding ever being this serious.

She said municipalities in Quebec rely on property taxes and so have incentives to allow homeowners to build, while its the provincial and federal government that bail out homeowners of damaged property.

As he surveyed the situation Sunday, Premier François Legault indicated the province may begin offering incentives for people to move out of flood plains because flooding ends up costing taxpayers every year.

Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault was out meeting with municipal and military officials near Trois-Rivières, Que, in Yamachiche on Monday.

With rain in the forecast for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, water levels are expected to rise and affect more homes, especially along the St. Lawrence River near Trois Rivieres.

"Our government is there and will be there," she assured the hundreds of residents who are or will be affected by flooding in the coming days as waters continue to rise in some areas.

Guilbault encouraged residents to co-operate with authorities and leave their homes should a mandatory evacuation order be announced.

Île-Bigras in Laval was one of the areas he visited and he saw the work being done by the Canadian army to shore up flood defences.

Respect their instructions, she said, and Quebec will be there to assist residents once the flooding subsides with its new reclamation program — a program, she said, that allows residents to make claims faster than ever before.

In Montreal, no buildings were evacuated overnight, according to Martin Guilbault, chief of operations at the Montreal fire department.

“There will doubtless be more flooding to come,” Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault told reporters in Yamachiche, about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal. “The weather, the temperature, the melting snow — and with a water level that is already high — what we can do is prepare the best we can.”

Dikes were put in place in high-risk areas and about 30 soldiers are on the island, offering assistance Monday to residents of Île Bizard and the municipality of Sainte-Geneviève.

Montreal, Laval on high alertQuebec Premier François Legault noted that many homeowners were still repairing damage caused by record flooding in 2017 while he toured the Laval area on Sunday. He also suggested that Quebecers whose homes are repeatedly flooded may eventually be forced to move.

"For us right now in Montreal, the situation is stable," Martin Guilbault said. "We're monitoring every minute what's happening. We're still asking people to help us help them."

For those who have been forced to leave their homes, there are several temporary shelters and assistance centres set up across Quebec. The Red Cross also recommends to contact municipal authorities directly if there are no centres available in your area.

He said although there are temporary dams, people are being urged to put sandbags around their homes.

Rigaud, about 80 km west of Montreal, nearly 200 homes have been evacuated. The city says water levels are lower than expected — but local authorities say the river is still rising and are advising shoreline residents to be careful.

Guilbault said he has seen neighbours helping each other and wants that community spirit maintained before the situation gets worse. With more rain on the way this week, the water could rise further, he added.

Heavy rainfall and warm weather over the long weekend led to risings floodwaters across Quebec. Some of the hardest-hit regions include Outaouais, Gatineau, Rigaud, Laval, Pierrefonds-Roxboro and Sainte-Marie.

"Even if the water is not yet over the street, the water will come. It's important to prepare ourselves."

He said he doesn’t want taxpayers to be on the hook for repairing the same homes over and over again, especially when such events appear to be happening more frequently, possibly due to climate change.

West of the city, officials in Rigaud, Que., have also been gearing up for what could be several days of high waters and flooding. 

In some regions, such as Trois-Rivières and Île Bizard, officials are advising residents to respect road closures. A real-time map of Montreal road closures can be found online as the situation evolves.

At this point, Rigaud fire Chief Daniel Boyer hesitated to predict when the water would recede as there is more rain in the forecast this week.

He warned people to stay away from the murky, cold floodwater as there is still ice, branches and debris churning in the overflowing waterways.

In Montreal’s West Island, the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro has posted a full list of street closures online. Residents are asked to follow the signs and to avoid traffic in high-risk areas.

The Canadian Red Cross, with a website open for donations, has launched a disaster relief fund to add to provincial help for residents.

As of Monday afternoon, Urgence Québec says more than 2,549 residences have been hit with flooding and more than 1,600 people have been forced to leave their homes.

Money from the online fundraiser will help residents rebuild their homes, said Pascal Mathieu, vice-president of the Red Cross in Quebec.

Red Cross relief centres have been set up in Gatineau, Laval, Montreal's Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, Rigaud, Saint-André d'Argenteuil and Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce.

"The authorities have said there are already hundreds of people affected and the water continues to rise," said Mathieu.

"We know that among the families affected, there are those who really need additional help."

Approximately 4,000 volunteers have been trained to offer comfort and lodging and provide food for those in need, and refer people to social services.

Volunteers in red jackets have been deployed for a week in Beauceville. Others are in Lévis, Saint-Raymond, Gatineau, Rigaud, Laval and Pierrefonds-Roxboro.

In neighbouring New Brunswick, about 120 Canadian soldiers have been deployed to help with sandbagging in communities affected along the St. John River.

Fifty-five roads and bridges in the province are affected, with 36 of them either closed of partially closed. 

In Ottawa, the Ottawa River is rising and the capital city has put out a call for volunteers to help shore up at-risk areas.

Environment Canada predicts temperatures in the teens for much of the week, with a chance of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The higher temperatures will accelerate the melting of the snowpack, and could raise water levels along the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers, authorities say.

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