Flooding from the spring thaw and rain has affected more than 2,300 homes in Quebec and 1,200 residents have been evacuated, 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.
Urgence Québec said Sunday there were five major floods affecting residents, 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.
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, more than 900 homes have been affected. Parked cars were submerged in some areas and boats were used to rescue residents trapped in their homes.
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.
As he surveyed the situation Sunday, Premier François Legault indicated the province may begin offering incentives for people to move out of flood plains because flooding ends up costing taxpayers every year.
“If we have to force people to move, we will have to do it.”
No homes evacuated in Montreal yet
In Montreal, no buildings were evacuated overnight, according to Martin Guilbault, chief of operations at the Montreal fire department.
But that doesn’t mean people can relax, he added, as more rain is on the way.
Dikes were put in place in high-risk areas and about 30 soldiers are on the island, offering assistance Monday to residents of Île Bizard and the municipality of Sainte-Geneviève.
He said although there are temporary dams, people are being urged to put sandbags around their homes.
Guilbault said he has seen neighbours helping each other and wants that community spirit maintained before the situation gets worse. With more rain on the way this week, the water could rise further, he added.
“Even if the water is not yet over the street, the water will come. It’s important to prepare ourselves.”
Canadian Red Cross launches fundraiser
The Canadian Red Cross, with a website open for donations, has launched a disaster relief fund to add to provincial help for residents.
Money from the online fundraiser will help residents rebuild their homes, said Pascal Mathieu, vice-president of the Red Cross in Quebec.
Red Cross relief centres have been set up in Gatineau, Laval, Montreal’s Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, Rigaud, Saint-André d’Argenteuil and Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce.
“The authorities have said there are already hundreds of people affected and the water continues to rise,” said Mathieu.
“We know that among the families affected, there are those who really need additional help.”
Approximately 4,000 volunteers have been trained to offer comfort and lodging and provide food for those in need, and refer people to social services.
Volunteers in red jackets have been deployed for a week in Beauceville. Others are in Lévis, Saint-Raymond, Gatineau, Rigaud, Laval and Pierrefonds-Roxboro.
New Brunswick, Ontario also waterlogged
Quebec isn’t the only province dealing with spring flooding.
In neighbouring New Brunswick, about 120 Canadian soldiers have been deployed to help with sandbagging in communities affected along the St. John River.
Fifty-five roads and bridges in the province are affected, with 36 of them either closed of partially closed.
In Ottawa, the Ottawa River is rising and the capital city has put out a call for volunteers to help shore up at-risk areas.
Environment Canada predicts temperatures in the teens for much of the week, with a chance of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The higher temperatures will accelerate the melting of the snowpack, and could raise water levels along the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers, authorities say.