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Jean Charest, Quebec Premier, Appeals For Calm As Waters Rise

(CBC) - Quebec Premier Jean Charest appealed for people to get themselves to safety as forecasts called for more high winds and rising levels in the Richelieu Valley, south of Montreal.

"It is very important we keep in mind that we can fix a house and we can repair them and lose it, but life is something that can not be replaced, so that's what we'll continue to focus on," said Charest in a news conference on Saturday

Officials say 50 millimetres of rain are expected in the next 24 hours and the showers will continue, meaning 75 millimetres could fall by Sunday.

While the focus appears to be getting residents to safety, Charest said he has also set up three task forces to focus on reconstruction, finding accommodation for those with damaged homes and how to prevent future flooding.

Winds, as high as 80 km/h on Lake Champlain have been pushing water up the Richelieu River, boosting water levels by two to five centimetres.

Ruth Sanscoucy, head of psychological services at the Haut-Richelieu-Rouville health and social services centre, said people are becoming increasingly depressed.

NDP Leader Jack Layton, who plans to tour the flood region on Monday, is urging the federal government to keep the military in the region.

Speaking at a caucus meeting in Montreal on Saturday, Layton said troops should stay and help out victims, not just dump sand bags and leave.

"We should be asking local governments, 'what do you need?' and helping them," said Layton.

The Canadian military has been helping provincial and local emergency services, which have been overwhelmed by residents in the region south of Montreal as they have been dealing with flooding all month.

The federal government recently announced soldiers would only take a limited role in cleanup efforts.

Meanwhile, an organization called SOS Richelieu is hoping to gather at least 5,000 volunteers for a cleaning blitz on the weekend of June 11.

The group's spokesperson, Michel Fecteau, said 1,400 people had signed up as of Friday morning. He said it's important for flood victims to know that help is on the way.

"If you see the smile when we meet the mayors and say that we're coming, and bring some smiles to the people and help them, it's an unbelievable effect," said Fecteau.

Fecteau said volunteers will spend that weekend clearing debris and cleaning. He said people can sign up as individuals, families, or large corporate groups.

Resources for residents affected by flooding Help Line: Tel-Aide Montérégie (450) 377-0600

Regional health clinic: Montérégie region Info-Santé 811

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