Water levels reaching peak: public security minister
Published Sunday, May 7, 2017 9:13AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 8, 2017 8:07PM EDT
Water levels in Quebec are about to reach their peak, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said Monday as he provided an update of the floods.
It's a small bit of encouraging news for dozens of communities inundated across the province, as Coiteux gave an update of the emergency situation.
"It will begin to get better," said Coiteux.
From the Outaouais all the way to the Gaspé, 171 municipalities across the province are affected by the floods and 2,733 homes are flooded.
At least 1,940 people have evacuated their homes either voluntarily or involuntarily, said Coiteux.
"The good news is that we’re expecting the maximum levels to be reached between today and Wednesday,” said Coiteux, adding that the province is in stabilization mode.
He said the water levels should begin to recede as of Wednesday, assuming the forecast doesn’t change.
"What's encouraging is that the water levels will stop climbing," Coiteux told a news conference. "It's very important to reiterate that. We are reaching maximum levels.
"The water levels in the flooded areas should start going down Wednesday. It may start earlier in certain sectors. But these levels are very high... so patience is required. But I know it's hard."
The weather is always subject to change, Coiteux underlined, adding that officials are constantly re-evaluating conditions.
It may take a few weeks before the water levels reach a normal level, he added.
“We will give all the support necessary,” until the situation returns to normal said Coiteux.
Environment Minister David Heurtel added that the water levels have already receded in the Rivieres des Prairies by five centimetres.
Heurtel said there are "encouraging signs" in the Outaouais region, near the Ontario border, where water levels are rising more slowly than before.
Officials said in addition to the physical resources that have been deployed in flooded areas, they are also dispatching psychologists and social workers to help with exhausted homeowners, evacuees and emergency workers.
As many as 1,650 troops will be on the ground as of Monday to meet the needs of the affected communities.
Work at the National Assembly will be suspended Tuesday, an exceptional measure agreed upon by all parties so MNAs can be in their ridings.
State of emergency in Montreal
The 48-hour state of emergency is likely to be extended another five days, said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre in a news conference Monday morning.
Coderre first announced a 48-hour state of emergency on Sunday as over 226 homes have been evacuated of about 1,000 people in several parts of the island.
"We will see if we will renew for five days [Tuesday]. There will be a special agglomeration council to make the decision," said Coderre, who expressed interest in the extension to meet the needs of residents and emergency workers.
A state of emergency gives the city extra powers and access to resources to use as officials see fit. It's the first time since the 1998 ice storm that a state of emergency has been declared in the city.
Coderre said Monday over 250,000 sandbags have been filled as over 600 men and women were working to help flooded citizens and homes.
“We have more than 100 firemen in the field, going door to door,” said Coderre, adding that the water level is stable in the Montreal area.
“The level of water is stable, it will go down a little tomorrow,” he said.
“Don’t lose hope,” he added, “What we’re seeing is encouraging.”
Coderre said the state of emergency will allow fire department chief Bruno Lachance, who has overseen relief efforts, to make evacuation orders mandatory.
"It's a matter of execution," said Coderre. "The difference between reaction and prevention is in the execution. If you have the authority to act accordingly, you can proceed."
The declaration of a state of emergency gives city officials the power to forcibly remove people from their homes if their lives are in danger, though no one has been forcibly removed so far.
"If people's lives are in jeopardy, we have to think about the people first. I understand morally, psychologically, mentally, physically, people are very tired but sometimes we need to protect people against themselves."
Coderre stated that the seniors’ residences Pavillon Pierrefonds and Pavillon Albert-Prevost have been evacuated as a precaution.
Coderre called the floods "historic," saying "When's the last time you saw water in the basement of the city hall of Pierrefonds?"
In Pierrefonds-Roxboro, burst dikes have forced the evacuation of 77 houses, while residents of a further 85 in Ile-Bizard must leave.
Another 60 homes in Ahuntsic-Cartierville have also been evacuated as about 10 streets are flooded.
Lachance said five of the main dikes were reinforced overnight.
"Engineers are inspecting," he said, adding that "we have control of them."
Teams of firefighters are working to secure the existing dikes and build new ones in at-risk locations.
The STM confirmed that detours on public transit are to be expected Monday due to flooding on the west and east sides of Montreal. The following bus lines are affected: 68, 183, 201, 205, 207, 212, 218, 401, 407, 409, 468 and 470.
State of emergency in Laval
On Sunday, Laval also declared a state of emergency. In a statement on the city's website, Mayor Marc Demers said he had informed Quebec's Minister Martin Coiteux of the declaration, which was necessary due to the threat to residents' safety.
The order comes after 60 homes on the island and 150 other homes suffered damage from basement flooding.
The Ile Verte Bridge in Laval is closed due to flooding.
Information and emergency shelters have been set up in the city for those who have been displaced or whose homes have been damaged by the water.
“Everything broke down. Everything broke down on the first floor. Honestly, it’s disastrous. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We’re just trying to live it day by day and see what happens,” said resident Bessy Agelakos.
Coiteux reminded inhabitants that when they're advised to get out, the warning should be taken seriously.
State of emergency in Rigaud
Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. ordered the mandatory evacuation of several areas, saying authorities can no longer guarantee the safety of residents.
The residents of roughly 150 homes are affected by the order, which comes after days of rising water levels in the besieged community.
The following areas are affected by the order:
- La Baie
- La Pointe Seguin
- Rigaud Sur Le Lac
- Rue Sauve
- Pointe a la Raquette
- Chemin de l'Anse
Many began to return to their homes Monday to find them badly damaged by water, and will now have to begin the job of drying out their homes and belongings and recouping their losses.
State of emergency in Oka, Hudson
On Saturday, a state of emergency was declared in Oka. By Sunday morning, the basement of the town's city hall was flooded and 60 homes had been damaged by water.
Mayor Pascal Quevillon said his request for help from the army had not yet received a response. He said pumping stations in the town's sewers had been flooded and should those pumps stop working, he estimated 1,000 more homes containing 3,000 residents would need evacuation.
The city of Hudson also declared a state of emergency on Sunday. Military personnel are on site to evaluate the situation. The Hudson Legion has been opened to offer shelter to any displaced people.
Pointe-Calumet, St-Andre d'Argenteuil and St-Placide have also been affected by the floods.
With a report from The Canadian Press