Stop sightseeing, snapping selfies in flood zones, Montreal fire department pleads – CBC.ca

Stop sightseeing, snapping selfies in flood zones, Montreal fire department pleads - CBC.ca
Flood watch Sunday: More than 6,500 evacuated from Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac
The Montreal fire department is asking disaster tourists to stay out of the city's flood zones, saying sightseeing could put the population at risk.

Most of the dikes, which are under extreme pressure, were hastily built as a temporary way to hold back spring floods, said Martin Guilbault, operations chief of the Montreal fire department.

More than 9,500 Quebecers have been forced to evacuate their homes and Premier François Legault has announced that the Quebec government will pledge $1 million to the Canadian Red Cross to help aid victims.

Climbing on top of the dikes to snap selfies could cause them to breach, he said. That, in turn, could lead to a disaster like the one unfolding in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que.

"The dike is in great stress, holding all that water, so we want a minimum of people around the dikes," he said. "It's important for the safety of everyone."

He added that driving around flooded neighbourhoods to view the damage is hindering the circulation of emergency vehicles. It has been a problem for several days and it needs to stop, he said.

Various areas throughout the province of Quebec remain in a state of emergency as flooding water levels continue to do damage.

"We don't want you to do that," he said. "We want you to stay home or if you have time, go volunteer and fill sandbags."

Montreal has so far escaped the worst of the flooding, though a state of emergency is in effect until at least Thursday.

About one-third of the residents of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac grabbed what they could and bolted for safety Saturday night and Sunday morning, often leaving with only the clothes on their backs. No one was hurt or missing after the water rushed into the town on the bank of Lac des Deux Montagnes across from western Montreal. Quebec Premier François Legault described the successful evacuation as a near miracle as he visited the scene.

About 100 people have been forced out of their homes and more than 2,000 residences have been inspected already in the most vulnerable zones, including ÎleBizard, Sainte-Geneviève and Pierrefonds-Roxboro.

The province and Hydro-Québec are still closely monitoring a dam at Bell Falls about 120 kilometres northwest of Montreal where the Rouge River spilled around the facility. Officials remained confident it would hold. Mr. Labbé, who fled his home in Sainte-Marthe Saturday, was part of a Hydro-Québec team monitoring the situation. We got less water than we could have, Mr. Labbé said of the dam. We got a break.

As flood waters continue to put pressure on the city, Guilbault said the fire department has been focused on prevention — monitoring water levels and dikes around the clock.

After the water rushed in, Jason Meunier hopped into the front-end loader he was using to reinforce a friends dike. He used it to push abandoned cars out of the way and to ferry 16 people from their houses in the early hours Sunday morning. It was really unbelievable, he said. The water was up to peoples arms and the current was too strong to walk in.

Nine multidisciplinary teams, which include rescue officials, building inspectors and electricians, are going door-to-door in flooded neighbourhoods to make sure properties and people are safe.

In the Ottawa-Gatineau region, 5,500 volunteers bolstered by 5,500 military personnel set sandbags to save homes in outlying towns on the Ontario side. The Chaudière Bridge from Ottawa to Gatineau was closed to pedestrians and vehicles due to high water levels. In Gatineau, the water flooded 461 homes, most of them in the historic heart of the town.

"They inspect house by house to make sure the people inside are OK," Guiilbault said, noting some homes are inspected two or three times in 24- to 48-hour periods.

Maryse Kahlé-Lépine returned to her childhood home by skiff Sunday to rescue her two cats, Petit Gars and Moustache, that the family had left behind. Her mother, Anne-Marie, died last December, Ms. Kahlé-Lépine said. Weve had enough loss. We lost our mother. We might be losing the house. We werent going to lose them too, she said.

"If it is dangerous, or the situation for those people is jeopardized, they are going to suggest evacuation."

Provincial authorities reported that across Quebec, as of Sunday evening, 6,424 homes are flooded and 9,522 people have left for higher ground. The toll has surpassed the record-breaking Quebec floods of 2017, which cost provincial coffers $376-million, not including insurance claims or amounts people spent out-of-pocket.

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Those remaining have been issued a boil-water alert and are advised not to flush toilets to avoid risk of sewer backup.

Emergency workers urged another 1,500 residents of a flood-ravaged suburb west of Montreal to leave their homes Sunday, one day after floodwaters broke through a natural dike northwest of the city and forced some 5,000 others to flee with only the clothes on their backs.

In Ontario, water was still rising on the Muskoka River and expected to exceed 2013 levels that saw more than 1,000 permanent residences and 1,000 seasonal homes flooded. Bracebridge is one of several communities north of Toronto, including Huntsville and Minden Hills, that have declared emergencies.

Residents of Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac  left behind medication, wallets and pets as the Lac des Deux Montagnes breached the dike at about 7 p.m. Saturday. Soldiers, firefighters and police, sirens blaring, patrolled the streets and pounded on doors to get homeowners to leave.

Since the Liberals took office in late 2015, the government has approved almost $1.27-billion in funding for 41 projects deemed disaster mitigation, according to federal figures. The numbers show that only a handful of projects have started and many will take years to complete.

Sunday’s evacuation was a preventative measure, said Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault. Two shelters have been set up for evacuees in neighbouring Deux-Montagnes and some 2,500 homes were impacted.

In the most serious flood zone stretching from Ottawa to Montreal along the Ottawa River system, the situation seemed to have been stabilizing. Then the dike broke just after dinner Saturday, driving the number of flooded houses and evacuees past the record levels of 2017.

“Nobody has been injured, no problems,” Guilbault said in Quebec City. “Everyone is safe this morning. That is very important.”

These are big numbers and the coming hours are critical, Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said. She added: There is no rain forecast until at least Wednesday. It should stabilize conditions and allow everyone to catch their breath.

Guilbault said the coming hours would be critical in the province as floodwaters continue to rise, but she took some comfort in the fact there is no rain in the forecast until Wednesday.

That “will bring some respite on the ground and will at last give our teams and all the evacuees a chance to catch their breath a bit.”

On Saturday evening, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) police used an amphibious vehicle to help evacuate people. Premier Legault said in a tweet on Twitter that Canadian soldiers were also on the scene.

Once we secure the situation through this spring flooding season, we will have to have significant reflections and conversations on how we move forward, he said.

The SQ evacuation work continued Sunday morning, with helicopters in use and an estimated 200 officers conducting door-to-door checks to make sure everyone had left their homes. Compulsory evacuation orders have been extended to residents of about 100 streets west of 26th Ave. to Louise St., further south.

The displaced residents were taken to Deux-Montagnes arena, in the neighbouring municipality, where information, accommodation and emergency services are available. Red Cross volunteers were on site, assessing needs and offering support.

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Across the province, Red Cross spokesperson Carl Boisvert says they are caring for about 1,000 Quebecers, with about two-thirds relocated to hotels. About 100 volunteers and more than 30 staff are providing this support in 11 municipalities and are monitoring the needs of 22 other cities.

Urgence Québec says those remaining in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac have been issued a boil-water alert and are advised not to flush toilets to avoid risk of sewer backup.

Hours before the breach at a Montreal press conference, the premier counselled courage to residents in water logged areas of the province who face a few more difficult days.

Following Ottawa and many smaller communities in Quebec and Ontario, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon in the face of flood threats that rose sharply Thursday after optimistic views earlier in the week that the worst had passed. Montreal city council held an emergency meeting Sunday afternoon, where they extended the state of emergency by five days. It was the first time since city hall was rebuilt in 1926 that Montreal city council was meeting outside the building.

As of 8:15 a.m. Sunday, the ministry of public securitys figures are unchanged for Montreal — 94 residences have been flooded, 49 surrounded by water and 55 evacuated, but the numbers provincewide are climbing

Across the province, 5,584 homes have been flooded (up from 3,584 Saturday, 3,017 Friday night), 3,188 surrounded and 7,686 people evacuated (up from 2,572 Saturday). In Rigaud, the area previously hardest hit, the numbers stand the same at 685 people subjected to evacuation.

An estimated 50 landslides have been reported in Quebec in relation to the flooding. As well, many roads and bridges have been closed, notably the Galipeault, cutting access off island via Highway 20. Transport ministry spokesperson Martin Girard advised residents to avoid unnecessary travel or consult Quebec 511 (quebec511.info).

On Saturday afternoon, Legault had noted that swollen rivers south of Quebec City are finally receding, however, he said water levels in the corridor along the St. Lawrence and Outaouais rivers between Montreal and the boundary with Ontario weren’t expected to peak before Monday or Tuesday.

In the Ottawa area, flooding forced the closure of a bridge linking Ottawa and Gatineau. In a statement Saturday, Public Services and Procurement Canada announced that the Chaudière Bridge would be closed to all pedestrians and vehicles starting at 6 a.m. Sunday, with traffic being redirected to the nearby Portage Bridge.

Also on Saturday, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau banned marine navigation in several areas, including a stretch of the Outaouais River between Ottawa-Gatineau and the Carillon generating station, as well as on Lake of Two Mountains, Rivière-des-Mille-Iles and Rivière-des-Prairies.

“To address an urgent situation, today I issued an order to prohibit navigation in specific areas of flooding in order to protect the safety of residents and help first responders to do their jobs,” Garneau said in a statement.

Anyone caught breaking the ban, which applies to all non-emergency vessels, faces a fine of up to $5,000.

Meanwhile, in central Ontario’s cottage country officials said water levels were up slightly due to rain on Friday, but they were hopeful some late-season snow would act as a sponge and help slow the flow of water into lakes, rivers and streams.

The best news comes from southern New Brunswick, where the forecast calls for floodwaters to slowly recede in most areas over the next five days.

Ten-year-old Xavier Poitras, who has cerebral palsy, helps his mother, Caroline Bouchard, right and brother Benjamin fill sandbags in Vaudreuil-Dorion on Sunday, April 28, 2019. Peter McCabe / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Transport Quebec workers use salting trucks to fill sandbags to place along Highway 40 westbound on Sunday, April 28, 2019. Peter McCabe / THE CANADIAN PRESS

First responders assemble on a road in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac on Saturday, April 27, 2019. Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Local residents were evacuated Saturday night at supper time, with very little notice. Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS

First responders look on as a Canadian Forces armoured vehicle drives on a road towards the flood zone in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que., on Saturday, April 27, 2019. The road has been blocked due to a broken dike which has prompted officials to evacuate hundreds of people in the area. Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Residents use a boat to make their way through flood waters in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac Saturday, April 27, 2019. Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS

A member of the Canadian Forces, right, directs an evacuee and his dog in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que., on Saturday, April 27, 2019. Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS