MONTREAL — The situation in flood-stricken Quebec appeared to improve slightly on Friday as the provincial government reported a drop in water levels in some areas and downgraded a forecast for weekend rain.
But water levels are still expected to rise in the central Quebec region of Mauricie and they remain high in some large lakes, Environment Minister David Heurtel told a news conference.
He said the Mauricie region will likely get 20 to 25 millimetres of rain over the weekend instead of the 59 millimetres officials had feared earlier this week.
“Our models nevertheless indicate an increase (in water levels) but not as large as expected,” he said.
Premier Philippe Couillard said he was hoping the situation wouldn’t deteriorate over the weekend.
“We will breathe a sigh of relief on Monday if we haven’t had massive rain and heavy overflow,” he said at the sidelines of an event in Montreal.
“In the meantime, we’re crossing our fingers.”
As of Friday evening, the province’s civil security department said 4,700 residences had been stuck by flooding and just under 3,900 people have been moved out of their homes in 175 communities.
The city of Rigaud, west of Montreal, warned that citizens who refuse the town’s evacuation order could face fines of up to $5,000.
Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. said about 19 people have refused to leave their homes and have been notified that they could face penalties.
“They’re being told something by their community and they have to listen, and if they don’t there are consequences,” he told reporters.
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said that compensation for flood victims will be reviewed and likely increased in some areas.
He said municipalities that haven’t been affected by flooding would lend technical expertise, human resources and equipment to help with cleanup efforts.
“We’re preparing the recovery phase that will start earlier in the western areas (of the province),” he said.
As flood waters continued to recede in Montreal, fire Chief Bruno Lachance warned citizens of the dangers they could face when returning home.
“There are still some risks in the homes, (such as) electrical risks, natural gas, structure,” he said, adding residents should contact the city for help with inspections.
Lachance said that while the homes closest to the river were still flooded, others were gradually becoming available for homeowners to visit.
One of those residents, Nick Cai, surveyed the damage as the military-built dike helped drain his street, which was “still a lake” one day earlier.
His street — 5th Ave. N. in the Pierrefonds-Roxboro area — has been in the news because it was badly flooded and residents claim repeated requests for help were ignored.
“I think from the beginning, for our street, it’s a kind of a tragedy — it shouldn’t have happened at all,” Cai said.
On Friday, Cai waited for the green light for electricity to be turned on, surveying the mess that will require professionals to help clean up.
“I think it’s huge — at least, my basement is finished,” Cai said.
“Some houses, there’s water on the first level so they have to be torn down and rebuilt completely.”
The Ontario government said Friday it has activated one of its disaster assistance programs and individuals and businesses may be eligible for aid in dealing with the effects of flooding.
— with files from Morgan Lowrie and Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.