Army to boost flood relief presence again to 1,650 troops
Published Sunday, May 7, 2017 3:33PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 8, 2017 3:32PM EDT
The Canadian Armed Forces will deploy 1,650 soldiers in southern Quebec, more than quadrupling the number that were initially sent to aid in relief efforts on Saturday.
“Those troops are still going to stay in the Trois-Rivieres-Ottawa corridor,” said Pascal Larose, director of operations for the deployed soldiers. “They’re going to carry on with the same kind of tasks, sandbagging, making digs and also patrolling with our partners,” in civil security, police and fire departments.
On Saturday, 400 troops were sent to help out in Laval, Shawinigan, Rigaud and Gatineau, the four areas of the province that have been hardest hit by overflowing rivers. Larose said soldiers assigned to patrols will help affected residents who are in need of aid.
Some of those extra troops will be sent to Laval and Montreal, though it remains to be seen how many.
"We're basically going wherever the public safety wants us to go, so I can't promise anything on exact locations," said Larose.
The deployed soldiers will be extra eyes on the ground but Larose emphasized that it's not their role to do law enforcement on Canadian soil.
Public security ministry spokesperson Thomas Blanchet said residents concerned for their property and belongings should trust the police and evacuate. More than 1,000 people across the province have already been forced from their homes by the floods.
“The provincial police and municipal police are surveilling houses and ensuring the security of their goods,” he said. “We urge citizens to evacuate because their security is the priority.”
Blanchet said the flooding has stretched Quebec's civilian resources to their limits, which is why the army was needed. It's unclear if the army personnel will only assist in relief or if they will be needed for cleanup efforts once water levels go back down.
"Citizens are exhausted, some municipalities need some reinforcements," he said. "This is why we called the army and deployed on the field."
The troops are on the ground and equipped with aviation and engineering equipment, as well as 12 boats from the Naval reserve.
Soldiers will assist in filling sandbags, directing traffic, evacuating residents, and reinforcing dikes and other critical infrastructure.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he understands the frustration of those affected by the floods but said there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“We need to make sure people understand and prepare themselves that this is going to take a while," he said. "I want to make sure that people understand that the city of Montreal, all of the stakeholders, all the players will be there before, during and after.”