(Baie-Saint-Paul) A historic flood of the Gouffre River and its tributaries literally split the city of Baie-Saint-Paul, in the Charlevoix region, in two on Monday. Nearly 1,000 people are isolated in several sectors of the municipality while a search operation has been launched to find two firefighters missing upstream, in Saint-Urbain.
“The river still fluctuates a lot when there are heavy storms, we see it rise quickly, but not like today, that’s unheard of,” says one of the co-owners of Le Génévrier campsite. , Bruno Labbe.
Images captured by citizens near its facilities made the rounds on social networks at the end of the afternoon. We see at least two trailers swept away by the nightmarish flow of the Rivière des Mares, which crosses the campsite, coming to smash on the bridge spanning Route 138, which normally makes it possible to reach the Côte-Nord from Quebec.
“Around the middle of the morning, around 10 a.m., we saw that we would have problems, that the level was rising as we had not observed, that the installations were going to be threatened, relates Bruno Labbé, who would have this family business for 60 years. [The river] started overflowing around 12:30 p.m., and you see, we still have a lot of the campsite. »
At this point, the road “literally tore”, washed away by the waves, said the mayor of Baie-Saint-Paul, Michaël Pilote, during a press briefing, a few hours after having triggered the measures to emergency in his town around noon on Monday.
As a matter of fact, the city is cut in two by the Gouffre river, of which the Mare river is a tributary. All the road links that normally allow citizens to come and go between the two shores are either submerged or closed as a precaution.
In the case of the Boulevard Leclerc bridge, the most important of these links, structural engineers from the Ministère des Transports are on site and are assessing the situation.
Clément Guillou and his colleague live on the east side of the Gouffre River. Unable to return to their home since they were stranded on the west side when La Presse met them, they had to resign themselves to renting a hotel room.
“I never would have believed that the water could pass the low wall,” he dropped in reference to the walls that normally surround the river in the center of Baie-Saint-Paul. A friend, Pierre, wanted to offer to host them, but he lost the power. “My electric meter is under water,” he said.
According to Mayor Michaël Pilote, nearly 1,000 people were isolated in various areas of the city due to flooding, although they are safe. A helicopter is available in case of emergency.
The municipality, which is also asking its citizens to stay at home, is struggling with a major water main break and power outages.
Two daycare centers were also evacuated in Baie-Saint-Paul while the city opened a reception center for refugees at the Aréna Luc-et-Marie-Claude. “We ask for the collaboration of the population by avoiding going out and following the City’s communications in the media,” it added.
Meanwhile, in Saint-Urbain, about 30 minutes north of Baie-Saint-Paul, two firefighters are missing. The Sûreté du Québec is currently working to confirm information that they are missing after going to lend a hand to flooded citizens, said Sergeant Claude Doiron.
Access to the sector is made difficult since some roads have been cut off, again due to the flooding of the Gouffre River and some of its tributaries which have come out of their beds. A Sûreté du Québec helicopter is currently heading to help locate potential victims.
A command post was also set up not far from there.
Reached by telephone, the director general of the municipality, Martin Guérin, confirmed that several residences in the village were currently flooded.
“These people were asked to leave to access different services,” he said, calling on those in need to come to the Saint-Urbain community center.
The Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel, has already announced that he will travel to Baie-Saint-Paul on Tuesday with the MP for Charlevoix–Côte-de-Beaupré, Kariane Bourassa and the Minister of Infrastructure, Jonatan Julian.
Several other regions of Quebec were also affected by the rising waters caused by the intense rain of the last few days.
In Gatineau, the City estimates that just over 1,000 properties will be affected by the water and approximately 250 buildings are at risk of flooding.
“Rapidly rising water levels are expected to stabilize in the coming hours and will be followed by a gradual rise before peaking towards the end of the week,” the statement said. However, they will remain high for several days, but below the historical levels of 2017 and 2019.