Rigaud and Pointe-Fortune urge citizens to evacuate their homes
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Convincing residents to evacuate was the goal of Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr (centre) Pointe-Fortune Mayor François Bélanger (right) supported by Très-Saint-Rédempteur Mayor Julie Lemieux.
Rigaud and Pointe-Fortune residents living in flood zones bordering the banks of the Ottawa River have been advised to evacuate their homes due to the imminent risk of flooding. Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. of Rigaud and Pointe-Fortune Mayor François Bélanger made the announcement at a press conference held on Thursday, April 18 at the Rigaud Town Hall.
“We have received information as of yesterday that flood levels could be greater than in 2017. This is a serious alert,” said Gruenwald. “The difference, this time, is it will happen very fast.” The next 72 hours are the critical period as heavy rains are expected along the Ottawa River basin.
“We cannot guarantee the security of people in the flood zone,” said the mayor. “If you choose to remain, there are sandbags available at the Rigaud Fire Station and the Pavilion in Pointe-Fortune,” he added. The mayor emphasized those that choose to remain in their homes do so at their own risk. He said Public Security would set up a satellite in the Rigaud-sur-le-Lac area. Should the flood situation deteriorate overnight, residents remaining in that area would make their way to the satellite to wait for rescue in the morning.
However, the town will not be filling and delivering sandbags door-to-door, or providing them in affected neighbourhoods as in 2017.
“Unless we know how high the flood level will be, there is no use to sandbag,” he added. When asked about senior citizens and others not able to fill and carry sandbags, Gruenwald replied, “The message is very simple: evacuate. You are in a flood zone.”
He said if water levels exceed the height of the sandbag barriers, the damage could be the same as if the sandbags weren’t there. He described how people previously put extraordinary effort into sandbagging their property to no avail.
“I have one preoccupation, its human life, not structures,” he said. “This afternoon there will be a door-to-door operation to make sure citizens are aware of the magnitude of the situation.”
Service centre available
Beginning Thursday, April 18, Rigaud Public Library will be open as a service centre for those affected by the flood in Pointe-Fortune and Rigaud from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will continue to be available throughout the weekend.
“The town hall will be open throughout the weekend, as well,” added Mayor Gruenwald. Evacuees are responsible for providing their own overnight lodging. “Alternative accommodation is the responsibility of the citizens. They are not being evacuated under emergency measures. If they stay, it is at their own risk,” said mayor.
When asked about those who would remain in their homes because they had no alternative place to stay, the mayor asked Rigaud Director of Public Security to respond.
“If people need to be relocated, we have asked the Canadian Red Cross to be present to assist with temporary shelter, “ said Martel. “We are not asking people to leave and live on the sidewalk.”
For further information and updates on the flood situation, citizens are asked to call