Major floods cause destruction in Quebec following several days of rain
Hundreds of residents have evacuated their homes in Quebec as local crews race to repair critical infrastructure after floods washed through several municipalities in recent days, and officials say they're expecting even more rain.
Quebec Public Safety Minister Francois Bonnardel made a plea to residents in Baie-Saint-Paul to be patient as repair crews work on local roads and stretches of highway destroyed by the water.
On Monday, municipalities of Baie-Saint-Paul, in Charlevoix, and Saint-Côme, in Lanaudière, triggered their emergency measures due to high water, saturating roads, pushing down infrastructure, and seriously damaging homes.
Officials were not able to give a concrete timeline on when the roads would reopen. Bonnardel said "we need to be realistic."
Meanwhile, Saint-Jerome, Que. is experiencing exceptionally high waters as levels reach Quebec’s "major flood" category following several days of rain.
On Tuesday, a handful of flood surveillance stations reported waters higher than normal. Provincial forecasting suggests water levels will stay high for several days.
Saint-Gabriel-de-Brandon near Lac Maskinongé and Pointe-Calumet, near Lac des Deux Montagnes saw medium flooding through Tuesday morning. It was a similar situation in the Saint-Agathe-des-Monts area, in Joliette, near the Dorwin Falls, surrounding Lac Sainte-Rose near Mastigouche, and in the Rivière Petit Saguenay.
Local authorities also launched a search and rescue mission for two firefighters who were swept into fast-moving currents.
Quebec's provincial police force said the firefighters were trying to evacuate people from their home in Saint-Urbain, in Quebec's Charlevoix region before they were pulled into the water.
In a Tuesday update, provincial police said their investigation is ongoing, and that drones and divers were a part of the rescue team.
Police asked the families of the firefighters to maintain hope as crews plan to continue their search through the day.
"We are here to help," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday. Federal personnel were dispatched to help in the search.
Trudeau also said Quebec hasn't yet tapped his government in to help with flood relief.
"We're here to help if necessary," he added.
BRIDGE CONNECTION 'COMPLETELY INACCESSIBLE'
“In many areas of Baie-Saint-Paul, we have sections of road that are completely uprooted. Highway 138, in both directions, is impassable," explained Baie-Saint-Paul Mayor Michaël Pilote on Monday.
"The bridge that connects Baie-Saint-Paul to Les Éboulements is completely inaccessible," he said. That evening, 1,000 people were still without power in the municipality.
The municipality is asking its citizens to stay home, inviting those who are forced to leave their homes to contact 911.
Several roads in the city were closed due to the flooding and two daycares were also evacuated. Children were transported to an emergency centre that was set up in the local arena, where their parents came to pick them up at the end of the day.
"I woke up at 1:30 p.m. in a state of panic," resident Claudia Fillion told The Canadian Press.
"There are people here who say they haven't seen this in 50 years," said another resident, Michel Gobeil. "People who think there is no problem with the environment will be confused."
"The situation is evolving very quickly, it is minute by minute," said Mayor Pilote. "I am in communication with different levels of governance, including the Ministry of Public Safety, Municipal Affairs, and Quebec City ... we are working with the government."
Crews are going door-to-door to ensure all those still in town are okay.
Meanwhile, the municipality of Saint-Côme, which has also called a state of emergency, has chosen not to grant interviews while providing urgent assistance to citizens. Information and updates on the situation will be posted on the municipality's Facebook page.
Late Tuesday morning, the municipality wrote that the evacuation order called Monday had been lifted. There remains serious damage to roads, forcing residents to detour to avoid impacted areas.
"There are places that are split in two," said resident Chantal Arseneault
"I'm only ten minutes away from the village," she added. "I can't go to the grocery store or do other errands unless I make a big detour."
'100-YEAR FLOODINGS' NEARLY EVERY YEAR: GUILBAULT
Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says the government is trying to keep up with the swelling impact of climate change in Canada.
Facing questions on emergency preparedness, he linked the floods to a shifting climate.
"What we’re seeing basically are 100-year floodings happening almost on a yearly basis now, and we know there’s a link to climate change," he said.
That once-in-a-century comment was echoed by Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who called images of Charlevoix floods "devastating."
"The recurrence of (these floods) is forcing all of us to rethink," he said.
"It’s not just about rebuilding, but how can we prevent these events," which he said are usually expected to come "once in a decade, once in a century."
Bonnardel also recognized municipalities need provincial help to deal with intensifying weather. He said the CAQ is mobilizing funds to help small communities protect their shorelines.
"Climate change is hitting us," he said. But opposition parties say that's not good enough.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault is set to arrive in Baie St-Paul Wednesday.
"This is a reality," said Parti Quebecois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon. "And unfortunately no, we don't see any sign of a government that really takes this seriously."
In a press briefing, Liberal leader Marc Tanguay suggested that the renegotiation of the fiscal pact could be an opportunity to carve out more money for climate adaptation. "It's okay, when tragedy happens, to invest funds to repair, to contain. But what can we do upstream? It will take money," he said.
FLOOD FORCES BUS DETOURS
Rising river levels are forcing some bus detours in Montreal.
On Tuesday afternoon, the STM reported cancelled stops or detours along four routes. Several more are under surveillance.
You can track bus detours using the STM’s new tool launched in February.
-- Published with files from The Canadian Press