NEWS

Quebec Floods: More Troops Sent In To Help Hard-Hit Communities

05/09/2017 04:27 EDT | Updated 05/09/2017 04:28 EDT

MONTREAL — As water levels in Quebec showed signs of dropping slightly Tuesday, authorities urged people to be patient and warned the situation will not return to normal for several weeks.

"The situation won't improve overnight,'' said Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux. "It will happen on a very gradual basis. We have major flooding in several areas and, gradually, the floods will become average and then minor.''

Coiteux cautioned that Quebecers must be realistic and realize things will not return to normal until at least late this month or early June.

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The Canadian army helps residents of Pierrefonds, Que. after heavy flooding caused by unrelenting rain on Sunday. (Photo: Catherine Legault/AFP/Getty)

Meanwhile, the number of soldiers helping municipal and provincial officials in flood-battered parts of the province rose to 1,730 from 1,650, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in Ottawa.

Earlier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the federal government will pay for the military-related costs.

"When Canadians are facing natural disasters or serious issues, we pull together, that's who we are,'' Trudeau said.

"Quebec and Ontario asked for military support and we're happy to give it and of course the federal government will assume all the costs related to support for Quebec and Ontario in these floods.''

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Louis Besner uses a paddle board to move along a flooded street in Vaudreuil-Dorion west of Montreal on Tuesday. (Photo: Graham Hughes/CP)

As of Tuesday, heavy rains and melting snowpack had resulted in 2,733 flooded residences in Quebec and forced the evacuation of 1,940 people in 171 municipalities.

The floods claimed at least one life in the province — Mike Gagnon, 37, whose car ended up in the surging Ste-Anne River in the eastern Gaspe region.

Police were still searching Tuesday for a two-year-old girl who disappeared with him.

Provincial police Sgt. Claude Doiron said authorities searched the shore but that the water was choppy and full of debris.

One of the hardest hit communities in the province was Montreal-area Deux-Montagnes, where some people used canoes to get around Tuesday.

montreal flood

Families are evacuated by firefighters in the flooded Montreal borough of Pierrefonds on Monday. With heavy rains persisting and waters still rising over much of waterlogged eastern Canada, the nation's military tripled the number of troops urgently working to evacuate thousands of residents. (Photo: Catherine Legault/AFP/Getty)

James Taylor borrowed his friend's and said he was acting like a water taxi, bringing people around to check on their homes.

Taylor said he felt a bit guilty that his house was dry and that his neighbours were suffering.

He believes municipal authorities in his town and others could have warned residents earlier that water levels were going to rise in order to give people more time to prepare.

"Local authorities knew what parts of the town were more vulnerable than others,'' Taylor said, adding residents had to make tough decisions when they banded together to bag sand and rescue people.

"We had to choose what houses to save and which ones to let flood. A group of residents and volunteers shouldn't have had to make that kind of decision.''

philippe couillard flood

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard walks through the floodwaters after a visit to city hall in Oka, Que. on Tuesday. (Photo: Ryan Remiorz/CP)

Premier Philippe Couillard said he understands the frustration many people are feeling.

"First, I want to tell people affected by the floods...that it's very, very terrible,'' he said.

"I can understand the anxiety, the angst people feel right now. I would feel the same, even some anger, if it were my home being affected the way I've seen certain homes being affected.''

"We had to choose what houses to save and which ones to let flood. A group of residents and volunteers shouldn't have had to make that kind of decision."

Couillard also reiterated his call for Quebecers to donate money to help flood victims, adding he personally donated money on Tuesday morning.

Goodale said the federal government was expected to announce, through Trudeau, it will contribute $1 million to a Canadian Red Cross fund.

That would follow in the footsteps of Quebec, which put up $500,000 and the City of Montreal, which is expected to kick in $250,000 on Wednesday.

"Providing relief and recovering from the aftermath of this disaster is going to be a long-term proposition,'' Goodale said.

Quebec's national assembly did not sit Tuesday so that members could stay in their respective ridings an extra day, while Montreal's agglomeration council voted to extend the state of emergency in the area by five days.

"For now, we will proceed as is until Sunday,'' Mayor Denis Coderre told reporters at city hall, calling the extension a preventive measure.

In Rigaud, Que., defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance toured flood-stricken areas on Tuesday, taking stock of soldiers' work on the ground, thanking them for their service and listening to any additional concerns.

"Most interesting for me is to hear from the civilian authorities, as I met them in Montreal and now Rigaud, to get a sense of the response, how much more work to be done, do we need to reinforce at all,'' Vance said.

— With files from Giuseppe Valiante in Deux-Montagnes, Que.

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