Days of constant rainfall and flooding has prompted Quebec to ask the Canadian Armed forces to send in troops to help overwhelmed communities across the province, as at least 700 people have been forced out of their homes.
“We are facing a situation where we are not only dealing with serious flooding, but the situation will continue to deteriorate for the next few days,” Quebec’s public security minister, Martin Coiteux, told reporters on Friday.
Coiteux has also urged the residents of the small islands of Ile Mercier — west of Montreal — and Ile Verte — in Laval — that have now become engulfed with water, to evacuate. “I understand it’s difficult to take that decision,” he said. Many other residents in cities such as Ottawa, and Montreal have also had to flee their homes in recent weeks.
This week, Environment Canada issued special rainfall and flooding warnings for much of Quebec and eastern Ontario — both provinces have the highest populations in Canada. Quebec has been hardest hit so far, with at least 124 municipalities deemed at risk of severe flooding. The rain comes as the water levels of Lake Ontario have reached unprecedented levels.
The agency predicts that Toronto will be hit with 40 to 70 milimeters of rain over the next few days, and the current rainfall has already resulted in major roadway closures and flight cancellations.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his support for the provinces on Friday morning, saying that his government is monitoring the situation and would provide help as needed.
Climate scientists are blaming the heavy rainfall and flooding on climate change. One expert told the CBC that flooding and other extreme weather events should be seen as the new norm.
“Normally you think of climate change as being something that’s happening over 20 or 30 years. But what we’re seeing is the conditions on the planet are changing rapidly,” said University of Ottawa climate expert Paul Beckwith. “The arctic is a lot warmer than it used to be, so that’s throwing off the heat balance on the whole planet.”