Flood victims risk fines to go home without official permission
Published Friday, May 12, 2017 12:48PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 12, 2017 6:50PM EDT
Residents of homes that have undergone flooding are urged not to reenter their homes until they are given the official green light – and some could face steep fines if they try to do so.
The mayors of Rigaud and Montreal are imploring citizens to show patience – difficult as it is – because of the many health and safety risks the homes pose.
In Rigaud police are manning roadblocks and telling residents they are not yet allowed home.
Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. is at his wit’s end, saying people just don't seem to care about their own safety.
“We’ve begged with them. I’ve tried everything. Maybe I’m going about this the wrong way. They’re not listening. They’re not listening to the authorities," he said.
Gruenwald said he faces no choice but to hit residents with fines of up to $5,000 if they try to return to their homes before officials give the all-clear.
Natalie Rouette, who has been living in a flooded home for three weeks, was ordered out Thursday.
"They said that if we were not going to get out they say they were going to force us or give us a fine,' said Rouette. "There's no word for it. This is not human."
So far, 19 residents have defied the order.
"Well that’s really heavy-handed. It’s really over the top,” said resident Charles Baumgarten.
“The way the mayor here has handled the situation here is really not nice, to put it mildly. There are people like me who have been living here for 40 years, and know the situation in our corner a lot better than he does. If I know that my house is okay, it’s okay,” said Baumgarten.
Gruenwald said that ignorance is frustrating, demonstrating that some residents just don't realize when things are not safe.
"And yet, whenever they need help, really, they will be the first ones to call upon an authority. Right now we cannot give them the service that the Ministry of Public Security obliges me to give them,” said.Gruenwald.
He added that he's not being heartless, and has instructed officials to escort pet owners who had to abandon animals at home. Gruenwald said his concern is to make sure nobody dies because of their own carelessness.
Call 311 before going home
In a news conference Friday morning, Coderre and Montreal Fire Department Chief Inspector Bruno Lachance asked those who experienced flooding to call 311 or visit one of the two flood command centres and have officials escort them to their homes to help mitigate any risks.
“There is a matter of public health and there is a matter of safety to address,” said Coderre. “Our responsibility is to make sure we protect people, even against themselves.”
Firefighters visited flooded homes one by one Friday, doing an inventory on which homes are safe to reenter and leaving notes on doors outlining how homeowners should proceed.
“There are still some risks – electrical, natural gas, structure. We will help you to go back into your homes with inspectors,” said Lachance.
Mould and coliform are also health risks inside homes.
Officials couldn’t say how many homes are now safe to reenter.
“A few houses are starting to be okay to start to visit, but the most damage, near the river, we’re not there yet,” said Lachance.
Coderre added that on Cousineau St. in Cartierville, two pumps have managed to dry out homes over the past two days, one of several successes they are beginning to note as the sun peeked through the clouds Friday.