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Soldiers deploy across Quebec after flood-caused sinkhole claims woman’s life

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MONTREAL — Canadian Armed Forces are deploying in three regions across Quebec, officials say, as rising water levels continue to wreak havoc on the province after claiming a life.

About 200 soldiers were poised to start filling sandbags and carrying out evacuations in the Outaouais and Mauricie regions Saturday night, with 400 more troops set to deploy there as well as Laval on Sunday, said Brig.-Gen. Jennie Carignan.

The soldiers are “extremely well-trained and prepared” for the flood fight, Carignan said. “They are used to doing it.”

Quebec’s public safety minister urged residents throughout the day to stay safe and cooperate with authorities.

“Be careful, be vigilant…please,” Genevieve Guilbault said alongside Carignan at Canadian Forces Base Longue-Pointe in Montreal Saturday evening.

As of Saturday night, turgid rivers had resulted in 903 flooded residences, 251 isolated residences and 317 evacuees across the province, according to Urgence Quebec.

Eight major floods were identified by Urgence Quebec on Saturday evening, threatening thousands of Quebecers: the Chaudiere River at Saint-Georges, Saint-Joseph, Scott and Vallee-Jonction, all in the Beauce region; Lake of Two Mountains at Rigaud and Quesnel Bay; and the Beaurivage River in Levis in the Chaudiere-Appalaches region.

Guilbault also offered her condolences to the family of Louise Seguin Lortie, who died early Saturday morning after driving her car into a massive sinkhole caused by flooding in the Outaouais region, according to police.

The accident left the 72-year-old’s sedan upside down in a swollen stream after rising river levels swept away part of the road overnight, police said.

Sgt. Martin Fournel of the MRC des Collines police said a pair of witnesses parked near the washout tried unsuccessfully to warn the driver as she approached.

“That lady, who was driving by herself on that road, fell into a sinkhole basically because of the flooding. There was a culvert that was not there anymore, so the road was cut in half and she was not able to brake and avoid the accident,” Fournel told The Canadian Press.

The woman was taken to hospital but died shortly after, he said.

The accident occurred at about 3:30 a.m. in the Municipality of Pontiac, about 30 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

Pontiac, which sits along the Ottawa River, is one of at least four municipalities in the Outaouais region to declare states of emergency, along with Gatineau, Saint-Andre-Avellin and Val-des-Monts. Trois-Rivieres is also under a state of emergency.

Rigaud, west of the Island of Montreal, saw at least 68 evacuations, as residents feared a repeat of 2017, when record flooding forced thousands from their homes.

William Bradley, whose house in Rigaud sits on a street that hugs the Ottawa River, said he filled several hundred city-supplied sandbags this week. He’s stacked them four-high around doors and windows, wrapping the makeshift barriers in polyethylene.

“It’s still coming up, coming up,” said Bradley, 72.

He said flooding two years ago caused about $100,000 in damage to the ceramics equipment he stores at home for his small business.

“We’ll stay as long as we have gas for the generator. We’ve got a boat — my daughter bought a boat and a motor for us in 2017,” he said. “By the way, never buy a boat during a flood season. It gets pricey.”

More than 45 millimetres of rain fell on the Montreal area between Thursday and Saturday, according to Environment Canada. Rainfall warnings have been lifted, but water levels were already high and are expected to rise sharply over the weekend with warm temperatures and snowmelt runoff.

The City of Laval, just north of Montreal, said in a statement it had distributed sandbags to 900 homes and knocked on 550 doors to make sure people were safe as more than 1,500 homes and business remained under flood watch.

Quebec City and the Gaspe Peninsula can expect up to 30 millimetres of rainfall this weekend, said Environment Canada meteorologist Andre Cantin.

“That will help the snow to melt again, and we do not expect the river will be able to go down for at least 48 hours,” he said Saturday.

Guilbault has said the province will allow stores — usually closed on Easter Sunday — to remain open this weekend so residents can stock up on supplies.

Some of the worst flooding Saturday appeared to surge through the Beauce region south of Quebec City, where 868 homes were flooded and 94 people evacuated as of 3 p.m., according to an Urgence Quebec bulletin.

In Beauceville, about 90 kilometres south of Quebec City, officials have asked the Canadian Armed Forces for assistance with evacuations ordered by the municipality.

Earlier this week, the Chaudiere River burst its banks and flooded a large part of downtown. Officials called it the worst flooding since 1971, with 230 homes and businesses flooded.

In Saint-Raymond, about 60 kilometres northwest of the provincial capital, 24 seniors in three residences have been moved to higher ground as the Ste-Anne River continues to rise.

A local dam gave way Saturday, said Mayor Daniel Dion, prompting concerns about flooding. “The problem today is that there is a lot of ice. If they clog our channels the water will have no space to circulate and that’s where it overflows,” he said.

In the Mauricie region, Canadian Armed Forces are focusing on Trois-Rivieres as well as the municipalities of Becancour, Louiseville, Maskinonge and Yamachiche.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Environment

Canada’s climate plan not enough, entire G7 must do more report says

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Justin Trudeau

OTTAWA — The wealthiest countries in the world — including Canada — are lagging instead of leading in the fight against global warming, a new report says.

The Climate Action Network, a global association of more than 1,300 climate groups, issued a report card on the climate plans of the G7 nations ahead of the leaders’ summit in France this weekend. The groups hope to pressure the world’s wealthiest nations to step up their climate game, noting none of them is doing enough.

There is also a hope expressed in the report that the upcoming federal election in Canada might stimulate more ambitious action. Canada, the report says, is among the worst of the already bad G7 bunch.

“It’s depressing,” said Catherine Abreu, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada. “The richest countries in the world are delivering the poorest performance and some of the smallest and poorest are leading the way.”

The report card says Canada’s current policies are consistent with global warming exceeding 4 C compared to pre-industrial levels, more than twice the stated goal of the Paris agreement of staying as close to 1.5 C as possible. The United States and Japan are also both in the 4 C category, while the other four G7 members, France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom, have policies consistent with more than 3 C in warming.

A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Canada is leading internationally with its initiative to wean the world off coal power, and financing projects in developing nations to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

“Over the past three and a half years, our government has delivered on an ambitious, affordable plan that is doing more to cut carbon pollution than any other federal government in Canada’s history,” Sabrina Kim said in a written statement.

But the Climate Action Network ranks Canada’s climate plan as having the same impact on global warming as the policies of the United States, where President Donald Trump has rejected the Paris agreement.

The report applauds Canada’s plan to eliminate coal as a source of electricity by 2030, the national price on pollution and the goal to stop selling combustion-engine cars by 2040. But it says all of the government plans “remain insufficient to meet Canada’s targets and the Paris Agreement.”

Canada’s current targets were developed by the Conservatives in the spring of 2015, and maintained by the Liberals six months later when they signed on to the Paris agreement a few weeks after winning the election. The goal by 2030 is to cut emissions 30 per cent below what they were in 2005.

Last December, the Liberals said computer modelling suggested Canada will get just over halfway there — 16 per cent below 2005 levels — under current plans.

Many scientists also say Canada must cut more than twice as many emissions than planned if it is to pull its weight in the war on climate change.

Climate plans are proving to be a major part of most party platforms, with the NDP, Green and Conservatives already releasing at least the broad strokes of their environment promises. The Liberals are expected to release their climate platform next month. McKenna has said several times that Canada will increase its emissions targets in 2020, when the Paris agreement requires it, but she hasn’t indicated how much more she will aim to cut.

The Conservative plan doesn’t specifically put a number on the goal, but does describe itself as “Canada’s best chance to meet the Paris targets.” The NDP aim to increase emissions cuts in line with what scientists demand. The Green Party promises to cut emissions by 2030 to 60 per cent below 2005 levels.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


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Environment

‘Grateful that we had stopped:’ Couple avoids fiery Alberta crash that killed 3

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oyen highway crash

CEREAL, Alta. — A Saskatchewan man says a well-timed pit stop may have helped him avoid getting caught in a fiery 10-vehicle crash in southeastern Alberta that killed three people.

Dore Germo and his wife left Kelowna, B.C., on Monday after a holiday visiting friends. After a night in Calgary, they were on their way home Tuesday to Warman, Sask.

They stopped for gas and a break in Hanna, Alta., about 80 kilometres from where seven passenger vehicles and three semi trucks collided on Highway 9.

“We were quite grateful that we had stopped,” Germo said in an interview Wednesday.

“It just makes you think, ‘Could that have been us further up the road?’ We just don’t know.”

The couple spotted smoke as they continued east but thought it was a grass fire.

Then they saw flashing lights and heard sirens. A police officer was running down the middle of the road waving his arms at stopped vehicles.

“I rolled down my window and he was just yelling, ‘Get out! Get out!'”

Germo said they were directed to a gravel road to get around the crash, and from there they could make out a tanker truck and burned vehicles amid the smoke.

“It kind of looked like a bomb had gone off because there were these burnt-out vehicles and it was very eerie,” he said.

“It was quite a sickening kind of empty feeling once you realized that — yes — those are people just going about their day and travelling somewhere.”

He said he’s praying for those involved.

“The first thing you think of is those poor families.”

RCMP confirmed Wednesday that three people were found dead at the crash scene between the small communities of Chinook and Cereal, about 300 kilometres east of Calgary. Ten people were injured, two critically.

One of the trucks that was carrying fuel ignited, causing several vehicles to catch fire, and another truck was carrying butane.

A stretch of Highway 9 was still closed on Wednesday afternoon, while crews cleared the area and recovered dangerous goods in one of the trucks.

RCMP Cpl. Laurel Scott said the crash happened in a construction zone.

“Any time that traffic is moving through or travelling near a construction zone, there’s always a concern just generally about travelling safely.”

She said a collision analyst was at the site for several hours taking measurements, noting marks on the road and recording where debris had landed.

The investigation could take several weeks, she said, and will also take into account mechanical exams and witness statements. It’s too early to say whether any charges are possible, she added.

“We need the public to understand this does take some time.” 

The RCMP’s victim services unit was providing support to people involved in the crash. The unit set up at the legion in nearby Oyen on Tuesday night.

“They’re there to offer whatever help they can, even if it’s just to listen to somebody and give them a blanket,” Scott said.

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary

The Canadian Press

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