Gatineau residents in good spirits as rising flood waters persist

Gatineau residents in good spirits as rising flood waters persist

Lise Veillette sits in a boat with some of her belongings as she is pushed by Benoit Gravel (left) and her husband Jean-Pierre Subercaze (right) in the flood zone, Monday, May 8, 2017 in Gatineau, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

GATINEAU, Que. — Lise Veillette and her husband Jean-Pierre Subercaze lost one car and a few of their belongings before finally deciding Monday to leave their home near the Gatineau River.

Flood waters on their street were rising relentlessly and the military was stepping up sandbagging operations in the community.

But in typical Canadian fashion, Veillette sounded optimistic as she was brought to shore in an aluminum fishing boat with just a few belongings stuffed into two suitcases, a large grey cooler, a backpack and a couple of black briefcases.

“At least you get to know your neighbours,” she said as she stepped out of the boat at the crest of what is now her submerged road, aided by neighbours and people who spontaneously showed up to help out.

Veillette and Subercaze live in an upper apartment on a street about 100 metres away from the normal shoreline, she said.

Watching water slowly seep into the apartment below hers since the previous Tuesday, Veillette said she was horrified, but decided to stay put, expecting the flood to recede.

But the water kept coming, and coming. And by Monday, after being told by local authorities that the electricity was being shut off, she and Subercaze had had enough.

“No water, and no electricity? No, we can’t do that,” Veillette said.

“So we decided to leave.”

Local residents had set up a makeshift ferry system, using boats and trucks to get supplies to those who chose to stay in their homes, and to help others leave.

Higher up the road, dozens of Canadian Forces personnel aided local residents and volunteers as they continued to fill sandbags at a frantic pace, loading them onto tractors and high-riser trucks for delivery to the desperate homeowners in the flood zone.

As a cold drizzle turned to wet snow, even small children were lending a hand. Using garden utensil shovels, three toddlers painstakingly moved back and forth from a sandpile to a bag held by their mother, Manon.

“They saw everyone here and asked me ‘can I help’,” she said.

The Canadian Red Cross set up a relief fund for flood victims in Quebec, with the provincial government contributing $500,000. About 1,650 soldiers were expected to be battling floodwaters across the region by late Monday, helping crews in some of the communities across the province that are under states of emergency.

Water levels across Quebec were expected to peak by Wednesday.

Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press

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