Montreal was the latest to declare a state of emergency yesterday afternoon, as rising flood waters and continuing heavy rain warnings continued through much of Quebec, Ontario, Atlantic Canada, and British Columbia.
“If people’s lives are in jeopardy, we need to think about the people first,” Mayor Denis Coderre told reporters, after issuing the 48-hour emergency order.
“The move comes after three dikes gave way in the city’s Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, located in the north end. Homes had already been evacuated in that neighbourhood, as well as on the two nearby islands, Île-Bizard and the smaller Île-Mercier,” Canadian Press reports.
“In total, nearly 1,900 homes in 126 Quebec municipalities have been flooded, with more than 1,000 residents leaving the affected zones.” A contingent of 1,200 Canadian Forces personnel were expected to deploy in west and central Quebec by Sunday evening.
Just west of the island of Montreal, the town of Rigaud issued a mandatory evacuation of flooded areas, after concluding it could no longer guarantee residents’ safety. “We will follow the fire department and actually remove the people if need be,” said Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. “Because it is either that, or services will be stuck to remove those people under a state of emergency at two o’clock in the morning on a stretcher. I’m sorry, but we are not going to go there.”
About 700 people in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa, were forced out of 390 homes. In eastern Ontario, Clarence-Rockland has been under a state of emergency since Thursday, while “a heroic sandbagging effort” in Cumberland, just east of Ottawa, failed to prevent dozens of homes from flooding, CP states.
The same story played out in the Montreal suburb of Roxboro, where Raymond Stelmashukspent days trying in vain to save his 93-year-old grandmother’s home. His late grandfather had built the house from a fishing shack.
“I made and moved 600 bags, between 600 and 650 bags,” he told CBC through tears. “My grandfather built the house…This shouldn’t be happening, and the city should be way more organized.”
By Sunday, the house had shifted off its foundation despite his best efforts, and CBC said it might not be salvageable. But Coderre dismissed residents’ complaints about a lack of sandbags and commended Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough mayor Jim Beis for doing a terrific job.
“There is no issue in Pierrefonds of lack of sandbags,” Coderre said. “Everybody is doing a great job.”
The B.C. interior reported flooding and emergency orders in Kelowna, West Kelowna, and Fintry Delta, and a mudslide in the Shuswap area east of Kamloops, while the town of Cache Creek resumed its search for Fire Chief Clayton Cassidy, believed to have been swept away by flood waters.
In Ottawa, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the Government Operations Centre “had beefed up its standby team as a precaution and is monitoring the flooding around the clock daily,” CBC reported Friday. And while noting that no single weather event can be directly linked to climate change, Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna said the floods underscored the importance of federal investment in climate adaptation.
“This is something that is real,” she said. “We are seeing the impacts of climate change, and that’s why we’re taking it seriously.”
NDP leader Tom Mulcair called for an “all hands on deck” response that includes more funds to address weather events linked to climate change.
“We’ve got to be adding more money to the pot, not less, because this type of flooding, this type of event that’s directly related to what we’re going to be seeing with global warming, we’ve got to be getting ready for it,” he told CBC.