Extensive flooding in eastern Canada forces evacuations

A car crosses a flooded street in Laval, Canada, on April 21, 2019, as the authorities remain on high alert in expectation of more surges of water across southern Quebec.
A car crosses a flooded street in Laval, Canada, on April 21, 2019, as the authorities remain on high alert in expectation of more surges of water across southern Quebec. PHOTO: AFP

MONTREAL (AFP) - Flooding in eastern Canada forced the evacuation of 1,200 people while more than 600 troops have been deployed in response, the authorities said on Sunday (April 21).

Warming weather over the Easter weekend has brought spring floods due to heavy rains and snowmelt from Ontario to southern Quebec and New Brunswick.

A man was killed last Saturday in Pontiac, Quebec, after he failed to see that a bridge had been swept away by the floods and drove his vehicle into the water.

The authorities, who initially feared a repeat of catastrophic 2017 floods in Quebec, the worst in half a century, appeared more confident about the situation on Sunday.

"We are optimistic about the coming days," civil security spokesman Eric Houde told AFP.

"There will be significant floods but globally not at the level of 2017, except in certain areas like Lake St Pierre," he said, referring to a widening of the St Lawrence River in Quebec.

"The big difference from 2017 is the level of preparation of municipalities and citizens," he added.

Over the past several days, towns have mobilised volunteers and distributed tens of thousands of sandbags to erect barriers or protect houses in threatened areas.

The areas most affected on Sunday were the region around Ottawa, and Beauce, a region south of Quebec City where nearly 800 people were evacuated. As of midday on Sunday, about 1,000 homes had been affected by the flooding in Quebec.

The provincial governments of Quebec and New Brunswick asked for reinforcements from the military. About 200 soldiers had been deployed in Quebec by last Saturday night, and 400 others near Ottawa; in Laval, just north of Montreal; and in Trois-Rivieres between Montreal and Quebec City.

About 120 additional soldiers were available to be mobilised in New Brunswick.