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“We expect more rain in the next few hours and days.”
MONTREAL – Quebec’s public security officials on Thursday called for the immediate evacuation of an area along the Rouge River, west of Montreal, due to the risk of a hydroelectric dam failure.
Simon Racicot, production and maintenance manager of Hydro-Québec, told reporters that the Bell Falls Dam was built to withstand what he called a millenary flood.
“It means a flood that occurs every 1,000 years,” Racicot said. Hydropower workers discovered that the same day the millennium water level had been reached.
“We are convinced that the structure is solid,” said Racicot. “But the protocols force us to warn people about the danger, we are currently entering an unknown area, completely unknown.”
The predominantly rural portion of the affected river is in the Lower Laurentians region of Quebec, about 140 kilometers west of Montreal and about 18 kilometers south of the Ottawa River.
Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault told reporters Thursday night that the province’s electricity company was confident that the dam would retain its current water deposit and that its structure was healthy.
“But we expect more rain in the hours and days to come, so that the level of the Red River can rise,” he said in Montreal.
Guilbault said there were 23 residences and 38 cabins in the evacuation area along the river. The provincial police of Quebec tweeted that it was helping about 250 people to leave the affected area as a precautionary measure.
Hydro-Québec said through social networks that if the dam were to break, the water flow would have a minimal impact on the downstream sites once it reached the Ottawa River.
The warning of breaking the dam should be maintained until 23:45. Thursday, according to Quebec’s public safety website.
Quebec’s Prime Minister, François Legault, tweeted that the people at risk had been informed and that the provincial authorities were closely monitoring the situation.
The warning comes as several regions of Quebec have been affected by the floods. Authorities say the risk of flooding remains high due to a combination of precipitation in the forecasts and the melting in the north.
Early Thursday, Mr. Guilbault visited the Lachute area, northwest of Montreal, where flooding in the North River has increased in recent days.
He was impressed with the level of preparedness in the smaller communities and was pleased that the number of people working on flood control in the field, including about 1,000 Canadian soldiers, was adequate.
Guilbault added that he would not hesitate to ask for more help if necessary.
Quebec public security officials said more than 2,500 houses were flooded and more than 2,100 isolated on Thursday, meaning they were considered isolated due to damaged roads or landslides.
Authorities have also specifically warned against landslides reported in various parts of the province.
One person has died since the onset of widespread flooding in the province.
In Montreal, officials increased the level of security and increased the number of teams on the ground, while the floods feared that the floods would worsen in the coming days, but stressed that the situation was under control.
“You will see more firefighters, more police and municipal personnel to help with the floods that may occur this weekend,” said Martin Guilbault, operations director of the Montreal Fire Department.
Mayor Valerie Plante warned that anyone affected by a flood in 2017 should prepare their home for more flooding, and a possible evacuation, if it has not already done so.
“The threat is actually very concrete and direct and is the message we want to send to the entire population,” he said.
Environment Canada issued a rain warning for Montreal with forecasts of 30 to 50 millimeters on Friday and Saturday.
The rain is expected to start on Friday afternoon in southern Quebec and intensify overnight, extending eastward.
In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency on Thursday afternoon and asked the Canadian Forces to help protect Canadians from harm.
Source: Huffington Post