Teams of inspectors in Montreal have assessed more than 1,000 buildings following the floods, and though many residents are beginning to return home, in Pierrefonds, plenty of houses remain uninhabitable.
“They put a green sticker for us on the house saying it's okay to start working,” said homeowner Basil Buali, who checked his home in Pierrefonds every day until he got the green light.
The sticker on Buali’s home was placed there as teams of firefighters, police, public health workers, electricians and construction experts made rounds beginning Saturday.
“They checked upstairs, the first level, where we live, and they said it's okay, but you have to make sure the air doesn't come through from the basement to the top,” said Buali.
So far, 500 homes in Pierrefonds have been given the green light, but 60 are code red, meaning the health risk is too high to move back in. Another 500 are code yellow, meaning residents can live there, but are given a homework list.
“I would ask people to be patient,” said fire prevention chief Louise Desrosiers. “Keep calling us on the 311 line if they need help and we will answer them.”
The inspection teams will focus on code red homes through the weekend, then revisit code yellow homes.
Montreal Public Health is mainly concerned with carbon monoxide poisoning or an influx of gastro and respiratory problems from mould.
The agency is also warning people to be careful of parks that were once flooded, because the ground could be contaminated.
As recovery takes its toll, more people are also facing psychological distress.
“This morning, 24 per cent of the people that we met needed some support and we referred them to people who could give them some help,” said Montreal Public Health Director Dr. Richard Masse.
Buali, who moves back home on Friday, said these safety visits helped them to feel at ease.
“We asked them about the kids, if it's safe enough for the kids, if it's safe enough to put a new water heater in so that we can live here and come back to our house, so that gave us peace of mind. A lot of peace of mind,” he said.