Landslides in Ste. Sophie force evacuation of four homes
Published Monday, April 21, 2014 10:17AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 21, 2014 7:24PM EDT
It may be up to a month until four families in the Laurentian town of Ste. Sophie will be allowed to return home, after a landslide Saturday made the ground around the houses unsafe.
And there’s a chance possible those families may never step foot in their houses again.
The landslide occurred Saturday in the town, 50 km northwest of Montreal.
Water levels in a creek below the homes rose and washed away land toward the rear of the homes, partially undercutting the foundations of the buildings in question and triggered the landslide.
The town called in the Public Security Ministry, which sent a public security officer to inspect the area.
The Surete du Quebec was also on site throughout the day Sunday to ensure nobody approached the dangerous area.
The occupants of two homes were subsequently ordered to leave their homes. Two more families were asked to leave Monday due to fears of more landslides.
After more inspections on Monday, geologists recommended a four-kilometre stretch of road in the area be closed for a month over concerns vibrations could worsen the landslide.
Mayor Louise Gallant said inspectors will test the soil in the affected area daily. Once they’re finished their work, the town will make a final decision regarding the cordoned off homes.
“We have to make sure everything is secure before they walk back in their houses,” she said.
Frank-Lee Savage’s parents have been living in the town since 2001. They were among those told to evacuate Monday morning.
Savage said the water levels in the creek behind the homes rise every year, but this is the first time something like this has happened.
“We definitely have questions we’d like answers to,” he said.
The Red Cross has been providing temporary shelter for the affected families.
With rain in the forecast for Tuesday, there are worries that more landslides may occur.
She said in the worst case scenario, all four homes may be torn down, but nothing is definite.
The town, Gallant said, is doing what it can to support those who were displaced.
“It is very hard because, you know, one morning you get up, you have your family with you, you have your house, you have your car you have your job, you've got everything. And a few hours after that you may lose everything,” she said.
The landslide in St. Sophie was the second in the Laurentians last week -- on Tuesday, residents of Lac des Seize Iles went through a similar plight. No one was hurt, but six homes and 25 boathouses were destroyed.
Concordia geology professor Judith Patterson says though landslides in Quebec have historically occurred in the St. Lawrence Lowlands, areas such as the Laurentians are also vulnerable to this kind of natural disaster.
“We had a lot of snow and ice melt very quickly and the soil in that case cannot drain fast enough, and then it becomes super saturated, and that sets up the conditions for a (landslide),” she said.
Patterson suggested that before buying a house, if there’s a hill or creek behind the home, consumers should have a geotechnical engineer do an assessment to determine whether the land the house is on is susceptible to landslides.