Monday, May 8, 2017

1,200 CAF Members Deployed to Quebec for Flood Assistance

By: Jeff Lagerquist,

The Canadian Armed Forces have deployed 1,200 soldiers to southern Quebec, tripling the number of troops initially sent on Saturday to fight an exhausting battle against rising flood waters.
Canadian soldiers fill sandbags in Luskville, Que., on Sunday. Troops were deployed to the Pontiac region of Quebec due to heavy flooding.
Canadian soldiers fill sandbags in Luskville, Que., on Sunday. Troops were deployed to the Pontiac region of Quebec due to heavy flooding. (SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Several communities -- including Montreal and Laval -- have declared a state of emergency amid some of the worst flooding parts of Quebec has seen in decades. Nearly 2,000 homes in the province have been flooded and about 1,000 residents have been displaced.

The additional military help follows a promise earlier Sunday by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. He told CTV’s Question Period that the number of military personnel responding to severe flooding will increase by the end of the day.

“We’ve got 400 military people on the ground. We are adding another 800 today,” Col. Pascal Larose told CTV Montreal Sunday. “We're basically going wherever the public safety (officials) want us to go.”

He said military personnel are already hard at work moving sandbags, checking residential flood-proofing, and assisting with evacuations.

Goodale added that marine assets will be deployed and a dozen helicopters and a Hercules – a type of aircraft — will be available to help those affected by the flooding.

“The forces are supplying everything they can possibly provide in these circumstances,” said Goodale.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also joined the relief effort Sunday. He tweeted a series of photos where he is seen filling sandbags and speaking with locals in the small municipality of Terrasse-Vaudreuil, west of Montreal Island.

Trudeau was joined by provincial and municipal colleagues, including his parliamentary secretary MP Peter Schiefke, Quebec minister responsible for the Monteregie region Lucie Charlebois, MNA Marie-Claude Nichols, and Terrasse-Vaudreuil Mayor Michel Bourdeau, according a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office about the “spontaneous stop.”

It remains unclear how long the military will continue to offer assistance during the flood, and what promises to be a prolonged and costly cleanup effort.

Larose said it is too early to provide such a timeline.

“We are going to stay as long as is needed,” he said.

Goodale also said the military is “ready to respond if necessary” in other provinces affected by the floods. In a tweet late Sunday afternoon, he said that Ontario has requested supplies and materials from the military, but no troops will be deployed there.

According to Goodale, military personnel are “prepositioning” themselves so that they are prepared if and when the call should come.

He added that they are closely monitoring the situation in New Brunswick and British Columbia.

The military response in Quebec is being bolstered by the Canadian Red Cross. The aid organization has mobilized more than 100 volunteers and established 12 emergency centres in the province.

Spokesperson Stephanie Picard told CTV News Channel more than 1,000 people affected by the floods have been assisted thus far.

“Our priority is really to be on the frontline and respond to emergency needs so that people don’t have to worry about those needs. They can think about going to a safe place in a hotel where they will be taken care of,” she said Sunday afternoon.

Picard said the Canadian Red Cross is prepared to mobilize more volunteers should the situation in Quebec worsen.

Meanwhile, many Quebecers and Ontarians are opening their homes to those who have been displaced.

Online accommodation marketplace Airbnb has activated its disaster response program in three cities in the region – Ottawa, Gatineau, and Montreal.

The initiative aims to connect those forced to abandon their homes, and relief workers, with Airbnb hosts willing to list their property for free.

The company says all service fees will be waived for those affected by the disaster checking in between May 4 and May 19.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the people of Montreal, Ottawa and Gatineau, and all who have been affected by these tragic floods,” Airbnb’s head of global disaster response and relief, Kellie Bentz, said in a statement.

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