(Baie-Saint-Paul) The town of Baie-Saint-Paul was hit by a “perfect cocktail” of heavy rain and snow cover in the mountains, authorities say. Victims saw their homes flooded in less than twenty minutes with the rupture of a protective wall in the city center in the afternoon.
“It happened so fast that people barely had time to react,” said area resident Daniel Lapointe, who saw a rainstorm invade his neighborhood Monday afternoon. “It was flowing… it was scary,” he drops, pointing to a dike, parallel to rue Ménard, which broke on Monday afternoon. It has since been urgently repaired with large stones.
This testimony is consistent with those of several other victims who told La Presse how their homes were flooded in record time. The mayor of Baie-Saint-Paul, Michäel Pilote, makes the same reading. “The wall gave way,” he told La Presse.
The director of public security of the City, Alain Gravel, abounds. The water was violently hitting this protective wall, dragging with it trees and debris. Then “the wall settled down and the water started coming through,” he said. Quickly, the firefighters in the area had their hands full as they had to evacuate this entire area of the city as quickly as possible.
In rue Notre-Dame, hard hit by the flood, Jean-Pierre Lajoie was emptying his basement using a pump.
Next step for Mr. Lajoie: get rid of “the mountain of sand” that has settled in his parking lot. When the firefighters arrived, the man who has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years had only 15 minutes to leave his home.
Same rush for his tenant, Paul-Henri Gagné, who only had a few minutes to take his personal effects and his medication. “It happened all of a sudden,” he said.
Denis Godbout is a resident of Saint-Joseph Street, the first to be flooded, the one at the water’s edge. Firefighters had warned him that the water was rising. “They said to me, ‘We don’t think the water is going to your house, but be prepared.’ And it seemed to settle, but all of a sudden it started to rise and within 15 minutes my land was flooded. In the basement, it flowed like waterfalls through the windows, ”says the one who is staying with friends east of Baie-Saint-Paul.
This sudden burst of water is also reported by other citizens of the area, hard hit by the floods.
Rue Notre-Dame, Steve Michel was emptying his basement with a pump. On Monday, he was evacuated to Les Éboulements. “We received friends who were flooded on Saint-Joseph Street, we thought we would be dry,” he said, annoyed.
Céline Côté and Ghislain Côté own Rembourrage Côté. The losses are considerable: they lost furniture and equipment. The building that houses their business belonged to Madame Côté’s father. “Even in the floods of 1968, the water didn’t get here,” she says, amazed. They are doubly stricken; their home was also flooded in another part of town. For them, cleaning will be long. “We’re discouraged,” she said.
In front of the business, Gaston Gagnon uses a snow shovel to clear the silt that has accumulated in front of his residence. His garage and his ground floor passed there. His brother Yvon was there to lend him a hand. They fear that the damage is not insurable.
On the side of Saint-Placide-de-Charlevoix, in the mountainous plateaus at the top of Baie-Saint-Paul, the water came from everywhere, testified several citizens, who found themselves isolated from the world for several hours. On Tuesday, the damage was impressive. A landslide licked a portion of the road that connects the village to Route 138, and the roadway was partly swallowed by a torrent. A witness, Gilles Boivin, claims to be the last to be passed before it becomes impassable. Behind him, he said, a trailer pulled by a van sank into the ground, eaten away by erosion, the asphalt of the road giving way under its weight. “It happened all of a sudden, the calvettes weren’t enough, there was water everywhere,” he said. In the morning, the trailer was still visible, damaged, lying beside the road.
During the day, the Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel, was reassuring, assuring that compensation programs would be available for the victims. “The worst would be over,” he said while in town, pointing out that Baie-Saint-Paul was hit with a “perfect cocktail.”
Mr. Bonnardel estimates that the approximately 600 people waiting to return to their homes will have to wait another 48 to 72 hours. “It’s normal that these people want to go home, see their house if they have lost belongings or whatever, but you have to secure the network,” he said.
For his part, the mayor of Baie-Saint-Paul, Michaël Pilote, believes that despite the preparation for the weekend, the authorities were “taken a little off guard”.
Mr. Pilote says the protective wall will now have to be rebuilt. “There are going to be plans to fix everything,” he told La Presse. He will have the opportunity to discuss it with Prime Minister François Legault, who will visit Baie-Saint-Paul this Wednesday to see the extent of the damage.