Hundreds of people took refuge Friday in emergency centers open across Montreal to welcome citizens still without electricity 48 hours after the freezing rain that plunged more than a million Quebecers into darkness.

“It saved our life. We came here and were treated like family,” said Mousumi Barua, a Vanier College student.

Taken aback by the first power outage of her life, when she was suffering from symptoms related to the prolonged cold, she called the police who rushed her to the Lasallian Center, in the Saint-Michel district, with her two parents, early Friday morning.

“We want to thank the police who came to pick us up at 4 a.m. It was really too cold. Without them, I don’t know what would have happened,” says the young woman.

Like about thirty other people across the city who took refuge in the emergency centers opened by the City on the night of Thursday to Friday, she was able to sleep warm there and eat a good meal. Other places also offer showers.

At the beginning of the afternoon, the place was always lively with many citizens who came there to recharge their electronic devices, in particular.

Given the temperatures that are likely to fall below freezing overnight from Friday to Saturday, even greater traffic is expected in emergency centers.

In the kitchen, Fred Félix and Simon Pellerin prepared hamburgers, fries and salad for their special guests. “We were asked to make 50 servings, but I’m going to make 80 to be sure,” he says.

All seem to be quitting about when they can finally get the power back.

A little further on, on rue Lièges, in the Villeray district, Sylvie and Jarvis watch the employees of Hydro-Québec get busy. “It’s the second day they’ve come. They were there yesterday and didn’t like what they saw,” the man said.

City employees are also not idle. According to Montreal administrative spokesman Philippe Sabourin, at least 500 teams of pruners or blue-collar workers were busy clearing the streets.

“There are still places where branches obstruct traffic, but, in general, it is clear,” he mentioned in a press briefing around noon on Friday.

At the Sarto-Desnoyers Community Center in Dorval, a hundred people warmed up and, above all, took advantage of the electricity to charge their electronic devices. The City offered hot drinks, granola bars and fruit to residents without power.

A station for children has also been set up with books, paper, coloring pencils and a few board games.

“It’s starting to look like 98,” exclaimed Jocelyne Mallette who arrived at the shelter early in the morning. “We had been almost a week without electricity. There, it stretches and from what we can see, it is not ready to settle. »

“At least we’re socializing and getting to know each other,” she said, sitting at a table with people she’d just met a few hours earlier.

A few meters away, Stephanie Sumers was knitting to pass the time. Her long gray scarf was moving forward at a good pace. “We thought about going to the Shopping Center in Dorval to warm up, but it’s closed except for the two grocery stores, […] so we came to have our first coffee of the day here,” she explained. His friend was refreshing the Hydro-Québec page in the hope that electricity would be back in his condo.

In Dollard-des-Ormeaux, the Canadian Tire of Dollard-des-Ormeaux has posted signs (in English only) at the entrance to the store to warn customers that certain items are out of stock. “No generator”, “no propane”, “no firewood”, “no inverters”.

Mike Creamer, like many other customers, nevertheless tried his luck in the camping aisles, at the bottom of the trade. He was hoping to get his hands on a small propane tank for his stove.

“We’re still okay, but I wanted to buy another one in case the outage lasts longer.” This morning, we made coffee on this stove and we are also going to use it for supper. »

And what will be on the menu? ” Oh ! Nothing complicated,” the man replies with a smile.

At the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Center, a few dozen people also took advantage of the showers, wifi and power outlets.

“We came to take a shower, drink a coffee, plug in our cell phones and play a little warm,” says Monika Bledowska in the middle of a game of cards (of Uno, to be precise) with her husband and three children. 6, 10 and 13 years old.

On Thursday, the family got out their camping gear to cook meals. On Friday afternoon, she was about to set up a tent to laugh a little at the situation. “We’re practicing our camping habits,” says Bledowska. We took out the gas stove and soon, we will take out the tent and put it on our large terrace. It will amuse the children. »

The five members of the family kept their good humor despite the situation. “After a good shower, we’re positive,” the woman explained, all smiles.