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Environment

Hundreds of Canadian troops deployed to flood zones in Quebec and N.B.

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  • MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault is visiting flood-damaged regions north of Montreal today, as warm temperatures and rising water levels threaten to worsen the spring flooding already wreaking havoc across a wide region.

    Legault was set to visit a community centre and flooded homes on an island in the Laval region, where Canadian Forces troops are expected to join the efforts to limit the damage. The city says it could receive another 20 to 40 millimetres of rain in the coming days.

    Many people across Quebec and New Brunswick have been filling sandbags in an effort to protect their homes. Officials say water levels are expected to rise in many regions due to warming temperatures that contribute to snowmelt and ice movement.

    About 200 soldiers started filling sandbags and carrying out evacuations in Quebec’s Outaouais and Mauricie regions overnight, with an additional 400 troops standing ready to deploy there and in Laval on Sunday.

    Urgence Quebec says that as of Sunday morning, 980 residences across the province had been flooded and more than 1,200 people had left their homes.

    Several major floods have been identified as threatening thousands of Quebecers, and so far one death has been blamed on the high water.

    Police say 72-year-old Louise Seguin Lortie died Saturday morning after driving her car into a sinkhole caused by flooding in the Pontiac area, about 30 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

    Some of the worst flooding has been in the Beauce region south of Quebec City, where 883 homes were swamped and 765 people evacuated, up from 94 on Saturday.

    Quebec’s public safety minister has urged citizens in affected areas to avoid unnecessary risks and to leave their homes if necessary.

    On Ile Bigras, off the southeast edge of Laval, about two dozen soldiers unloaded a truck full of sandbags on Sunday as they worked to reinforce a concrete barrier only metres from the rushing river.

    Public affairs officer Pierre Leblanc said the army’s priority would be filling and stacking sandbags and protecting critical infrastructure near the river, which he said was rising about one centimetre each hour.

    He said some 600 soldiers had been deployed across the province, including about 200 in the Laval area.

    Near the entrance to the island, several roads were closed due to flooding and one home appeared partially surrounded by water, as small waves lapped at a picnic bench and a “For Sale” sign on the lawn.

    Meanwhile, about 120 Canadian soldiers are being deployed across western New Brunswick to help residents threatened by rising floodwaters.

    Fifteen communities in that province have been warned to remain on high alert.

     

    The Canadian Press

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    Environment

    Keep guard up against hurricanes in 2019, as risk remains potent: forecaster

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  • HALIFAX — It has been years since a major tropical storm wreaked havoc in Canada, but the Canadian Hurricane Centre is warning against complacency.

    The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its hurricane outlook Thursday, predicting nine to 15 named storms this season, with four to eight becoming hurricanes and two to four being major hurricanes.

    Bob Robichaud of the Canadian centre noted that’s similar to last year’s hurricane season, when only two storms hit Canada, including post-tropical storm Chris, which made landfall in Newfoundland in July 2018.

    However, Robichaud warns that some Atlantic Canadians may be forgetting storms like post-tropical storm Arthur, which snapped trees and caused massive power outages in 2014, and hurricane Juan’s widespread wrath in 2003.

    And he reminded journalists attending a briefing in Halifax about hurricane Michael, which flattened parts of the Florida panhandle last October.

    The Halifax-based centre has created a fresh smart phone app, and recommends people begin tracking storms as soon as they start and then monitor for shifts in direction and intensity.

    “What we advocate is for people to really stay in tune with weather information because the forecast can change as the storms are approaching,” Robichaud said.

    Robichaud says studies show that complacency levels rise about seven years after a storm like hurricane Juan, and that as a result people do less to prepare.

    “People tend not to take any preparedness action if they haven’t had any kind of hurricane in recent years,” said Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist.

    “For us it’s been five years since any major impactful storm … so it’s even more important to take the necessary precautions to get ready.”

    The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo has published a simple guide for Canadians on basic measures to take to prepare in particular for flood risk from extreme weather.

    The centre has repeatedly pointed out that without basic measures, basement flooding can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage during hurricanes.

    Its publications include a Home Flood Protection Program that begin with such simple steps as testing sump pumps, cleaning out eaves troughs and maintaining backwater valves.

    More advanced measures include removing obstructions from basement drains and creating grading to move water away from homes.

    The hurricane season runs from June 1 to early November.

    Robichaud said hurricanes tend to “feed on” warmer waters, and as result the centre is closely monitoring those trends.

    The meteorologist said as summer progresses it’s projected the water will warm in the eastern Atlantic and become warmer than average.

    In addition, Robichaud said the Atlantic Ocean continues to be in an overall period of high hurricane activity that hasn’t yet come to the end of a cycle.

    — Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.

    Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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    Environment

    Philippines dismisses Canada’s plan to bring garbage back by end of June

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  • OTTAWA — The Philippines has rejected Canada’s late-June timeline for repatriating its garbage and is moving forward with plans to ship it back to Canada itself.

    Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a media briefing in Manila Thursday that Canada’s timeline isn’t good enough and that the Philippines government will have 69 containers of mislabelled Canadian trash headed back across the Pacific no later than next week.

    Earlier this week Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the containers dumped in Canadian waters after Canada missed Duterte’s May 15 deadline to deal with the nearly six-year-old dispute.

    “The trash will be sent back the soonest,” Panelo said in Tagalog. “This week or a week after. Definitely not the end of June.”

    “We will not allow ourselves to be a dumping ground of trash.”

    Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Wednesday Ottawa has contracted the Canadian office of the French shipping giant Bollore Logistics to treat the waste and then bring it back to Canada before the end of June. Environment officials say the containers must be fumigated in the Philippines before being loaded onto a ship.

    McKenna’s press secretary, Sabrina Kim, said Canada is “fully engaged” with the Philippines to “promptly remove the waste to Vancouver for disposal.”

    The contract with Bollore is worth $1.14 million but the Philippines says it will pay to ship the trash back just to get it out of the country.

    The containers are the remainder of 103 shipping containers sent to the Philippines by a Canadian company in 2013 and 2014, falsely labelled as plastics for recycling. Philippine authorities were alarmed that the amount of material was more than the Philippine importer could process, and ordered an inspection, finding the containers to be filled mostly with regular garbage rather than any material that could be recycled.

    Canada and the Philippines have battled since 2014 about what to do with the contents. The Philippines has recently recalled its ambassador and consuls general until Canada deals with the waste.

    Several environment groups in both Canada and the Philippines argue Canada violated the Basel Convention, an international treaty designed to prevent wealthier nations from using developing countries as trash heaps.

    The Canadian company that shipped the waste, Chronic Inc., has since gone out of business; while officials say they would like to try to go after it to get some of the costs back, that is proving difficult. Chronic Inc. is not believed to have violated any Canadians laws when it shipped the waste.

    Before 2016, Canada’s regulations under the Basel Convention only stipulated that the convention applied to shipments Canada considered hazardous. Canada did not then, and still does not, consider the waste to be hazardous. The Philippines does.

    As a result of this case, Canada changed its regulations to prevent this kind of situation from recurring. Now exporters must obtain permits from Environment and Climate Change Canada to ship waste if either Canada or the importing nation deems it to be hazardous.

    Garbage-filled containers are not all that rare, with the Philippines dealing with another such shipment this week from Australia. Reports from Manila say seven containers of garbage are now being rejected by the Philippines. That garbage was to be burned for energy in the Philippines but the country says that violates its clean-air laws.

    Last year South Korea took back containers of trash that had ended up in the Philippines in just a matter of months, drawing negative comparisons for Canada, which sat on its hands for almost six years.

    Duterte has also hinted at following China’s move to bar plastic recycling imports entirely. China used to be the biggest importer of recyclable plastics but in 2018 barred most shipments because too many of them were contaminated with materials that could not be recycled.

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


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