Quebec’s premier is telling residents in waterlogged areas of the province that they face a few more “difficult” days ahead and to “have courage” until the flood threat eases.
Francois Legault made the comment Saturday afternoon, just hours before a dike broke in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Que., forcing the evacuation of 5,000 residents living along the shore of Lake of Two Mountains.
Sgt. Daniel Thibaudeau of the Quebec provincial police said the water rose so quickly that totally submerged cars could be seen Sunday morning, and the water was at the level of ground-floor windows in some homes.
He said in some cases rapid action was needed to save lives, but he did not provide details. Police used an amphibious vehicle for some of the rescues. There were no reports of injuries or missing people.
Roughly 2,600 homes on about 50 streets in the town northwest of Montreal had to be evacuated when the dike broke as families were sitting down to supper.
On Sunday morning, more than 200 police officers were on site and Canadian Forces soldiers were providing help, with evacuees being sheltered in the arena in neighbouring Deux-Montagnes.
Legault noted Saturday that swollen rivers south of Quebec City are finally receding, however, he said water levels in the corridor along the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers between Montreal and the boundary with Ontario weren’t expected to peak before Monday or Tuesday.
In the Ottawa area, where hundreds of troops have been deployed to help hold back the still-rising floodwaters, officials put out a call Saturday for more volunteers to pack and stack sandbags.
The flooding also forced the closure of a bridge linking Ottawa and Gatineau. In a statement Saturday, Public Services and Procurement Canada announced that the Chaudiere Bridge would be closed to all pedestrians and vehicles starting at 6 a.m. Sunday, with traffic being redirected to the nearby Portage Bridge.
Also on Saturday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau banned marine navigation in several areas, including a stretch of the Ottawa River between Ottawa-Gatineau and the Carillon generating station, as well as on Lake of Two Mountains, Riviere-des-Mille-Iles and Riviere-des-Prairies.
“To address an urgent situation, today I issued an order to prohibit navigation in specific areas of flooding in order to protect the safety of residents and help first responders to do their jobs,” Garneau said in a statement.
Anyone caught breaking the ban, which applies to all non-emergency vessels, faces a fine of up to $5,000.
Meanwhile, in central Ontario’s cottage country officials said water levels were up slightly due to rain on Friday, but they were hopeful some late-season snow would act as a sponge and help slow the flow of water into lakes, rivers and streams.
The best news comes from southern New Brunswick, where the forecast calls for floodwaters to slowly recede in most areas over the next five days.
The Canadian Press