Dike breached, thousands evacuated near Montreal as floods worsen

Volunteers retrieve an empty boat to refill with sandbags against the flooding in Constance Bay, west of Ottawa, Ontario, on April 28, 2019.
Volunteers retrieve an empty boat to refill with sandbags against the flooding in Constance Bay, west of Ottawa, Ontario, on April 28, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

MONTREAL (AFP) - Over 6,500 people were told to quickly leave their homes near Montreal over the weekend after floodwaters breached a dike in rain-soaked eastern Canada.

The evacuations came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for increased measures to make infrastructure "climate resilient".

The flooding across Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick "highlights how important it is that we fight climate change, that we adapt and mitigate the impacts of more extreme weather events", he said.

According to the latest government data, nearly 8,000 people have been forced from their homes in Quebec - more than in 2017, during what was then the area's worst flooding in half a century.

The barrier protecting Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, just west of Montreal, gave way last Saturday night, causing a surge of water of up to 1.5m to crash through the area.

"We didn't have time to do anything, the water rose while were chatting, I just had time to take my medication," one resident told public broadcaster Radio-Canada.

Hundreds of policemen, firefighters and soldiers helped evacuate nearly 2,600 homes in the area, a provincial police spokesman said.

 
 
 

"It's going very well. Thankfully no one was injured, no one is missing," Sergeant Daniel Thibodeau said.

Around 1,700 soldiers have been deployed to the hardest-hit regions - and Montreal and Ottawa declared states of emergency last week.

In Fredericton, New Brunswick, crews have been busy hauling away driftwood and debris as waters start to recede. More than 400 households were flooded in the province, and the main highway connecting to the rest of Canada remained closed.

In Ottawa, a bridge connecting the capital to Gatineau, Quebec, was closed and 18 residents fled their flooded homes.

Mr Trudeau was in the Ottawa area last Saturday for a briefing from emergency management officials. He also helped to fill sandbags with his young son.