Eastern Canada Grapples With Extreme Flooding
MONTREAL — Thousands of residents in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick were evacuated from their homes after days of flooding that spurred Montreal and Ottawa to declare a state of emergency and prompted the intervention of Canada’s Armed Forces to help residents.
Over the weekend, a dike was breached in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Quebec, a suburb west of Montreal, sending 5,000 residents fleeing to higher ground, some frantically scooping up their small children, pets and valuables as water came as high as their waists.
Video footage showed a man in a life jacket in a small boat paddling down a street submerged in water. The breach startled residents, many of whom were sitting down for dinner.
No one has been seriously injured in the flooding, and the urban centers in Ottawa and Montreal are largely free from danger.
Speaking from the area over the weekend, the Quebec premier, François Legault, pledged $1 million to the Red Cross to help victims of the flood and praised the “solidarity” of local residents, whose quick mobilization helped prevent injuries or worse.
Speaking in Ottawa on Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government needed to ensure that infrastructure spending was being invested in the right projects to “protect our communities.”
Much of the flooding in Ontario and Quebec came from an unusually large amount of snow melting into the Ottawa River combined with heavy rainfall.
Some environmentalists and leading members of the government have linked the latest flooding, as well as record floods in 2017, to weather extremes related to climate change. High water levels are expected to peak in both cities on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“What we thought was one-in-100-year floods are now happening every five years, in this case, every two years,” said Catherine McKenna, the environment minister, at an environment conference last week in Montreal.
Ottawa’s flooding has been largely concentrated in a village on the rural fringes of the municipality. A raging torrent of water at a hydro electric dam just upstream from Canada’s Parliament buildings forced officials to close a major bridge that crosses the river to Gatineau, Quebec, on Sunday morning.
In Huntsville, Ontario, a waterfront town about 130 miles from Toronto, drone images showed a shopping mall parking lot underwater.
Downtown, the river’s water had risen up over docks and a parking lot to reach the back of buildings on the town’s main street. Sandbags, however, appeared to be keeping buildings largely dry.
The flooding also buffeted Atlantic Canada, where flooding of the St. John River caused disruption and damage in the southern part of New Brunswick.
More than 430 homes were evacuated and on Monday morning water levels were just over three feet higher than flood level in Fredericton, the provincial capital. Officials there, however, believe that the flood has peaked.
In Constance Bay, Ontario, a rural area of Ottawa that has also been affected by the flooding, Mr. Trudeau and his two sons joined volunteers filling sand bags.
But in an election year, politics appeared to intercede and Mr. Trudeau was confronted by an angry volunteer who claimed that his security detail had delayed other volunteers from reaching the sandbagging station.
“I was in truck for an hour waiting while you were here for the photo op,” the man said to Mr. Trudeau.
“That’s unfriendly and unneighborly today,” Mr. Trudeau replied. “We’re here to help.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the city of Ottawa said no one had been delayed as a result of Mr. Trudeau’s security.