Nearly 4,000 homes flooded in Quebec
Published Tuesday, May 9, 2017 6:08AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 7, 2017 10:49AM EDT
Though water levels have likely reached their peak in Quebec, public security officials are stressing patience.
In a news conference Tuesday morning, Premier Philippe Couillard and Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux both underlined the need to be realistic and not expect the situation to change within hours or even days, saying it will take several weeks before homes and flooded communities will dry out.
They say the rate of the water output into flooded areas appears to have peaked overnight, it could take until the end of May or beginning of June to see the situation return to normal.
As of Tuesday evening 166 municipalities had flooding, down from a high point of 171 the previous day.
However the number of flooded homes increased, from 2,733 to 3,882.
More than 2,700 people had to leave their homes, and about 550 roads were washed out province-wide.
Flood levels are gradually dropping, particularly in the western part of the province.
“We’re in a phase of slow receding,” said Couillard. “If we start to see a drop, it doesn’t mean the flood will go away tomorrow.”
Coiteux said “there is hope before us,” before again stating, "The situation won't improve overnight. It will happen on a very gradual basis. We have major flooding in several areas and, gradually, the floods will become average and then minor.
"We are headed toward a drop in the water levels which will be complete only at the end of the month. We don't control the weather, so it's conditional on that. But we're headed toward improvement."
Deux-Montagnes is one of the latest local communities to declare a state of emergency. Mayor Denis Martin made the call at 4 p.m. Monday, following flooding that forced about 125 people to leave their homes.
A temporary shelter at the Royal Canadian Legion (141 Chemin du Grand-Moulin) has been established.
One dike failed, unable to hold back the Ottawa river, and it took just hours for the water to fill neighbourhoods.
"In the '90s when there was the last big flooding they put in those dikes, so they put them at a higher level to make sure these things don't happen again, and as we see today record high levels they still aren't high enough," said Martin.
Martin Hensen, 80, spent the past few days trying to keep water out of a home he just sold.
Without electricity it's been tough, and overnight more than one metre of water flowed into the basement.
"Three o'clock in the morning I went down, no water. My wife went down at six o'clock and there was already that much water," said Hensen.
But what has impressed many is the high spirits that Hensen is maintaining.
"I went on the balcony with my banjo uke and I started playing and somebody videoed it . I play for ten minutes and I get rid of my frustration," said Hensen.
Water is so high in a park in Deux-Montagnes, it reaches the roof of a car and nearly the height of the soccer nets. (photo: Amanda Kline / CTV Montreal)
Several schools in at least six regions, including the Montreal area, are again closed Tuesday.
General Jonathan Vance visited three of the flood-stricken areas Tuesday: Pierrefonds, Rigaud and Gatineau.
The armed forces are continuing their work across the province to ensure the safety of citizens and reinforce critical structures.
“Their presence itself is reassuring for people” said Couillard, who confirmed that the Canadian government will be picking up the bill for the services the 1,650 troops are providing.
He also touched on compensation for flood victims.
Couillard mentioned that there will be information sessions held in communities affected to help answer questions about financial compensation, adding that information is available of the public security website.
Health Minister Gaetan Barrette briefed Quebecers about services available to citizens in the days after the flood, in particular dealing with the stress and mental anguish of those affected.
“Those needs will increase,” said Couillard. “We will be there to respond to that.”
Couillard said he understands the frustration many people are feeling.
"I want to tell people affected by the floods...that it's very, very terrible," he said. "I can understand the anxiety, the angst people feel right now. I would feel the same, even some anger, if it were my home being affected the way I've seen certain homes being affected."
Ministers reminded Quebecers that donations to the Red Cross will go a long way to help flood victims.
The provincial government confirmed Monday it is contributing $500,000 to the Canadian Red Cross flood relief fund and the City of Montreal is also intending to donate $250,000.
Couillard said he donated money online on Tuesday morning.
Montreal's agglomeration council voted Tuesday to extend the state of emergency in the city by five days.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said that the city visited 547 at-risk houses, 397 of which were touched by flooding, and that there have been 243 evacuations.
He, like the premier, stressed patience in dealing with the situation, but said he was satisfied with the progress.
“From the sandbags to the door-to-door, everybody was there,” he said in a morning news conference. “Everybody was doing a tremendous job.”
“Everything is under control,” he added, but said, “I can understand the frustration of the people because they’ve been living a trauma.”
The state of emergency will continue until Sunday in Montreal.
The National Assembly in Quebec City is on break Tuesday due to widespread flooding across the province. MNAs from all parties agreed it was better, during the crisis, to be there for citizens.
In Gatineau, the city is keeping some of its municipal buildings closed in order to lighten traffic in the area.
With files from the Canadian Press