04/22/2019 17:00 EDT | Updated 04/23/2019 10:19 EDT

Major Quebec Flooding Forces More Than 1,500 Residents To Evacuate

Climate change will impact how the province handles flooding compensation, the premier says.

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault says governments will need to adapt programs as climate change increases the frequency of serious flooding.

Legault says Quebec cannot waste taxpayer money on compensating people for flood damage, only to see the same properties flooded again two or three years later.

That is why beginning this year, flooding compensation will be capped by the province at a cumulative total of $100,000, after which the only aid available will be to help move out of the flood zone.

Speaking to reporters today after touring flooded areas in Gatineau, Que., Legault praised the efforts of local residents, provincial authorities and the Canadian Armed Forces in preparing for rising waters.

Graham Hughes/CP
Members of the Naval Reserve patrol the Ottawa river next to homes surrounded by floodwaters in the town of Rigaud, Que, west of Montreal on April 22, 2019.

Some 800 Canadian military personnel have fanned out across Quebec, filling sandbags and aiding evacuations as officials warn that warming temperatures and melting snow will bring rising flood waters this week.

Urgence Quebec said Monday that six major floods were threatening Quebecers, with 2,389 residences across the province flooded and more than 1,500 people forced from their homes.

"There will doubtless be more flooding to come," Quebec Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault told reporters in Yamachiche, about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal. "The weather, the temperature, the melting snow — and with a water level that is already high — what we can do is prepare the best we can."

She thanked Canadian Forces members, who on Sunday had helped fill 4,000 sandbags and continued to provide help Monday.

Graham Hughes/CP
Homes surrounded by floodwaters are shown with a view from the Ottawa River in the town of Rigaud, Que, west of Montreal on April 22, 2019.

Joining Guilbault in Yamachiche, Brig.-Gen. Jennie Carignan said there are now 800 military members on the job throughout Quebec. She said the soldiers are well-trained for the work and are "very proud to be able to provide our support."

In Rigaud, about 70 kilometres west of Montreal, fire chief Daniel Boyer said a light armoured vehicle was called in to help with the evacuation of a couple who required medical attention. He said the Army vehicle was able to transport paramedics to the couple's home and get them to safety.

"That is a large part of the reason of why the Army is with us," Boyer said. "The request was made for light armoured vehicles because, at the moment, emergency vehicles can no longer pass in certain places."

Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. said residents are taking warnings more seriously than they did when flooding last hit the region in 2017.

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"People are a lot more co-operative," he said. "They understand, and they are totally surprised there is already another flood so close to the last in 2017. Everything is better organized."

As he toured a flood zone in the Laval area Sunday, Premier Francois Legault noted that many homeowners were still repairing damage caused by 2017's record flooding. He also suggested that Quebecers whose homes are repeatedly flooded may eventually be forced to move.

Meanwhile, New Brunswick officials said Monday they are encouraged by the latest flood forecast, which has water levels stabilizing in the Fredericton area and on the upper reaches of the Saint John River.

Emergency Measures Organization director Greg MacCallum said that while the water remains above the flood stage of eight metres, levels are expected to "abate somewhat" over the next couple of days, barring any additional rain.

Still, MacCallum warned it's not the time for people to let down their guard, as water levels continue to rise in areas south of Fredericton.

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