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Quebec flooding: Maximum water levels about to be reached, public security minister says

Water levels in Quebec are about to reach their peak, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said in an update of the floods Monday morning.

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, more than 146 municipalities across the province are affected by the floods and 2,426 homes are flooded.

As many as 1,520 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, add 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.

The weather is always subject to change, Coiteux underlined, adding that they are contantly reevaluating.

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 5 centimetres, a good sign.

Officials said in addition to the physical resources that have been deployed in flooded areas, they are also dispatching psychosocial 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 communities affected.

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 tomorrow. 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 are 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 11 homes in Ahuntsic-Cartierville have also been evacuated.

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.

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BCNN1 • May 8, 2017

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