Canadian capital of Ottawa declares state of emergency as waters swell

A man looks out at a flooded residential area in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, on April 24, 2019.
A man looks out at a flooded residential area in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, on April 24, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

MONTREAL/OTTAWA (REUTERS) - Rising waters prompted further evacuations in central Canada on Thursday (April 25), with the mayor of the country's capital, Ottawa, declaring a state of emergency and Quebec authorities warning that a hydroelectric dam was at risk of breaking.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared the emergency in response to rising water levels along the Ottawa River and weather forecasts that predicted significant rainfall on Friday.

In a statement on Twitter, Mr Watson asked for help from the Ontario provincial government and the country's military.

"Flood levels are currently forecast to exceed the levels that caused significant damage to numerous properties in the city of Ottawa in 2017," he warned.

Spring flooding had killed one person and forced more than 900 people from their homes in Canada's Quebec province as of 1pm on Thursday, according to a government website.

Ottawa has received 80 requests for service related to potential flooding, such as sandbagging, a city spokesman said.

The prospect of more rain over the next 24 to 48 hours triggered concerns on Thursday that the hydroelectric dam at Bell Falls in the western part of Quebec could be at risk of failing because of rising water levels.

 

Quebec's provincial police said 250 people were protectively removed from homes in the area as of late afternoon in case the dam on the Rouge River breaks.

The dam is now at its full flow capacity of 980 cubic metres per second of water, said Mr Francis Labbe, a spokesman for the province's state-owned utility, Hydro Quebec. He said Hydro Quebec expected the flow could rise to 1,200 cubic metres per second of water over the next two days.

"We have to take the worst-case scenario into consideration, since we're already at the maximum capacity," Mr Labbe said by phone.

The dam is part of a power station that no longer produces electricity, but is regularly inspected by Hydro Quebec, he said.