Quebec flooding forces evacuation of more than 2,500 homes

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By CBC News

FLOODING from the spring thaw and rain has affected more than 2,500 households in Quebec and almost 1,700 residents have been forced to leave their homes, according to the latest numbers by Urgence Québec.

Soldiers across the province were filling and stacking sandbags as officials warned floodwaters are likely to keep rising this week due to warming temperatures, combined with rain.

Hundreds of volunteers and municipal workers are also working to protect properties.

At least one death can be attributed to the flooding thus far. A woman in her 70s was killed early Saturday morning in Pontiac, Que., about 50 kilometres west of Ottawa, when she drove into a massive hole created after floodwaters washed out a road, Pontiac’s mayor Johanne Labadie said.

Urgence Québec said Sunday there were five major floods affecting residents in 51 different municipalities, including in the Montreal region, where officials are keeping a close eye on Mille-Îles River and the Rivière-des-Prairies — stacking sandbags and building makeshift dikes.

On Monday afternoon, Urgence Québec said a total of 2,549 houses were flooded and another 1,565 were isolated by flooding, making them inaccessible by road.

Many roads are closed and evacuations were in progress Monday morning in Quebec’s Beauce region, where the Chaudière River is expanding beyond its banks at about 20 to 25 cm per hour.

In downtown Sainte-Marie, almost 1,000 homes have been affected. Parked cars were submerged in some areas and boats were used to rescue residents trapped in their homes. Electricity to much of the area has been cut.

Mayor Gaétan Vachon said the river seems to be receding now, but slowly.

“It went down a foot or two, but it does not go down quickly,” he said. “In the space of six hours, it may have dropped by an inch.”

In Scott, streets were closed and the city centre has been paralyzed. Two hundred residences were evacuated Sunday morning. Mayor Clément Marcoux said he doesn’t recall the flooding ever being this serious.

Touring areas of Gatineau hit by flooding on Monday, Quebec Premier François Legault reiterated his government’s new program to incentivize Quebecers to move from flood-prone areas.

He said that the program, announced last week, would save taxpayers money in the long run.

“With global warming, these events are happening more often than in the past,” he said.

“So we must be able to adjust our [compensation] program, and that’s what we’re doing.”