Quebec pledges $500K for flood victims as water levels expected to drop
Amid news that levels in Quebec’s waterways may soon crest, the provincial government has pledged to donate $500,000 to the Red Cross in order to help those affected by flooding.
Water levels are expected to peak either today or tomorrow, then slowly start to subside by Wednesday, according to Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux.
But, he warned, the issues caused by the flooding will persist long after the situation starts to normalize.
“We’re in for a number of weeks in which we will have particular problems we will have to face all together, and this is why the efforts we’re combining … will have to be maintained for quite some time,” he said.
Later in the morning, Coiteux announced the province would donate $500,000 toward a special flood relief fund set up by the Red Cross.
The money will be used to pay for immediate needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, and to help people once they return home to pay for things such as clean up, rebuilding and furniture.
The government will pay the non-profit organization’s administration fees, Coiteux said, so everything donated to the fund will go directly to helping those in need.
The Red Cross has set up 12 welcome centres in nine regions across Quebec since the flooding began, and has helped more than 1,400 people so far, according to spokesperson Pascal Mathieu.
As of 9:45 a.m. ET, 146 municipalities were flooded and 1,520 people have been forced out of their homes.
By the end of the day, there will be 1,650 Canadian Forces troops on the ground across Quebec to help with the relief efforts.
In Quebec’s Gaspé region, dozens of police and firefighters are involved in an ongoing search and rescue operation for a man and two-year-old.
They were in a car driving near Sainte-Anne-des-Monts in the Gaspé Peninsula on Sunday around 6 p.m. when water buildup on the road, which was closed, caused the car to swerve into Rivière Sainte-Anne.
Woken in the night
Camille Delpech, a resident of Montreal’s Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough, said she and her husband woke around 3 a.m. ET to the sound of pounding on the door.
It was firefighters, there to let them know they had to leave their home. Not long after the firefighters came to the door, water started to enter their basement apartment from the garage.
“We were just bombarded with the water. You know, I saw the fire trucks three days before and I was wondering what was happening but I didn’t know it was going to get that serious. It was really, really traumatic for us,” she said.
By the time she was able to get her kids, ages 4 and 5, out of the house, the water was high enough that their belongings were floating by.
Delpech, who is three months pregnant, said she’s not sure when they will be able to return, but she’s not optimistic her things will be in tact once they do.
Efforts to quell waters working, province says
Environment Minister David Heurtel said the speed the water is travelling through the Ottawa River basin is just as problematic as the water levels.
“We’re talking about historic levels of water.”
The province has used the dams and reservoirs in the Ottawa River basin to slow down the water flow by more than 2,500 cubic metres per second, he said.
Had the province not undertaken those measures, water levels in the Lake of Two Mountains, west of Montreal, may have risen 50 centimetres higher, Heurtel said.
While the dams haven’t been damaged by the water levels, they are working at capacity.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak he understands the frustration and knows it’s devastating for homeowners, but the city has distributed more than 250,000 sandbags and emergency crews are doing as much as they can.
Asked to address criticism to the city’s response to the flooding, he said most residents he has met with were happy with how it was handled.
Several municipalities, including Montreal, Laval and Rigaud, have already declared states of emergency and ordered homeowners to leave their properties. Montreal’s agglomeration council will vote on extending the state of emergency by five days at a meeting tomorrow.
In Rigaud, one neighbourhood was evacuated yesterday and another two will be evacuated today.
Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. said since late April when the waters started to rise, the town had been “quite patient” with its residents but it was time to start forcing people out for their own safety.
“The water levels being where they are, if a strong wind from the east, or a strong wind from the west should come in these waves will literally destroy the houses. The water is that strong,” he said.
Éric Houde, director of Quebec’s civil security operations, said the province would increase the psychosocial services available for those who need them. They can be accessed by calling 811, the Info-Santé line.
Major artery shut down, schools closed
The high water levels have also forced officials to close the Galipeault Bridge, which connects Île-Perrot to the Montreal Island along Highway 20, for an undetermined amount of time.
Motorists are being advised to take Highway 40 through Vaudreuil-Dorion, Highway 30 or stay home.
The toll bridge on Highway 30 will be free for motorists while the Galipeault is closed, according to Transport Minister Laurent Lessard.
Service is also free on the Montreal-area commuter train’s Deux-Montagnes and Vaudreuil-Hudson lines, which both serve flooded areas, for the day.
A number of schools in and Montreal are closed for at least the day. McGill University has cancelled day and evening summer semester classes as well as exams at both its Macdonald and downtown campuses.