Rigaud residents reluctant to leave homes as flood waters surge in southern Quebec
Published Thursday, April 20, 2017 1:03PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 21, 2017 6:19PM EDT
Water levels continue to rise throughout southern Quebec and public officials are warning residents to take precautions – and in some cases, evacuate their homes.
Rigaud has declared a state of emergency as the Rigaud River swells and empties into the Ottawa River, which has burst its banks.
As of Friday about 350 homes have been declared off-limits, and more households could be ordered to leave by the weekend. On Thursday night 60 homes were flooded.
Many, however, are choosing to stay in their homes, because the water has not yet penetrated.
Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. said safety should always come first.
"Some people are going to criticize this and criticize that, but you know what? At the end of the day, our job is to make sure that the lives are all safe," he said.
Gruenwald Jr. said the concern is that the roads that access those homes are either flooded or in danger of flooding, and if that happens, emegercy crews may not be able to reach them.
The rising water has already contaminated Claude de Lafontaine's drinking water and if it gets any higher his house could be ruined.
"The firefighters came this morning and told us we have to get out. We're all extremely worried," he said Thursday.
Most of the people ordered to leave their homes went to stay with families, but others will be put up in a hotel. The local library is also available as an emergency shelter.
"Whether it's one person or 50 people, it doesn't matter. It will be done. The support is there," said Gruenwald Jr.
That didn't stop some people from ignoring evacuation orders and driving through flooded streets in cars loaded with sandbags. Those people said they were going to do what they could to keep their homes dry.
Sylvie Decoste is one of those refusing to leave.
"My pump is working, getting rid of all the water in the basement. And if I need help, I'll go stay with my neighbour higher up on the road," said Decoste.
Gruenwald Jr. added that the town ordered 3,000 more sandbags on Thursday to distribute to residents, and that this year's flooding is looking to be the worst in the past decade.
“Yesterday (Thursday) morning at 10:30, there was 6,650 cubic metres per second coming down, and we were told that by Sunday, we’ll be up to 7,200 cubic metres a second. That means that we’re not even at the top of the water yet, and we still need to get there,” he said. “We have not been to the maximum and we have not stabilized and we have not started going down.”
This area of Quebec has received more rain since January than it has during the same time frame in the last 145 years.
Flooding in Laval
Meanwhile flooding is also reported in several parts of Laval as public security officials said the Mille-Iles and Des-Prairies rivers are the waterways most at-risk for flooding, although the Outaouais River is also running high.
Free sandbags have been made available at several Laval fire stations and residents are encouraged to place them around their homes to protect against the water.
"The city of Laval put sand at five sites. You can have the location of the sites on the Laval website at Laval.ca and we're giving free sandbags for all citizens," said Laval Fire chief Patrick Ferland.
Residents with questions are encouraged to call 311 for more information and to call 911 in case of emergency, such as if a basement is already flooded.
"The fire department will lend them a pump, but they will have to rent a pump at a store and we will have to pick the pump back," said Ferland.
However, some Laval residents are not impressed with the city’s response. Sarah Leduc said she had difficulty getting helpful information.
“We call 311, they said call 911. We called 911, they said call 311,” she said. “Nobody wants to take care of us. Nobody cares.”
She said five public security vehicles have been through her neighbourhood, but nobody stopped to offer help.
"Five cars came here, turned around, with two guys doing nothing. Five times they came in the night, they are coming, they take a look, and then they go," said Leduc.
A state of emergency has also been declared in Saint-André-Avellin in the Outaouais because of the overflow of the Petite-Nation River.