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Quebec flooding: Two firefighters missing northeast of capital, states of emergency

May 1, 2023 
By Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

May 1, 2023, Baie-Saint-Paul, Que. – Provincial police have confirmed that two people swept away by the current on the flooded Riviere du Gouffre in Quebec’s Charlevoix region, where up to 60 millimetres of rain fell within a 24-hour period, are firefighters.

Sgt. Audrey-Anne Bilodeau, a spokesperson for the Quebec provincial police, said the firefighters were swept away while helping two residents near St-Urbain, Que., around 100 kilometres northeast of the provincial capital. The residents were airlifted away and are now safe, she said.

Earlier on Monday, provincial police said they were investigating reports that two firefighters were swept away in Riviere du Gouffre near St-Urbain. Police spokesman Sgt. Claude Doiron said two helicopters were deployed to participate in the search.

In Baie-St-Paul, Que., just south of St-Urbain, Mayor Michael Pilote declared a state of emergency due to heavy rains that washed away roads and isolated homes.

Fire Chief Alain Gravel said his members helped in the search for the two missing firefighters, who he said were carried away in the river north of Baie-Saint-Paul. “We tried to find them with different teams, but we didn’t succeed in seeing anyone,” he told reporters.

Gravel said around 86 people in the city had been evacuated because of the flooding and that around 1,000 homes had been cut off by the water.

Pilote said one of the main roads running through his city was “completely, literally, ripped up” by the heavy rains and flooding. He encouraged people to stay in their homes. “Stay home; if your home is in danger, you only have to call 911 and the emergency services will come to your home to evacuate you.”

Pilote said a leak in the city’s aqueduct caused pressure to drop in municipal pipes, forcing officials to impose a boil-water advisory for the next three days.

Andre Cantin, a meteorologist at Environment Canada, said that as of 2 p.m. Monday, the Charlevoix region had received between 50 mm and 60 mm of rain in the previous 24 hours. That precipitation added to the melting snow in areas in and around the rivers running through the area.

He said another 5 mm to 10 mm of rain was expected in the region Monday night, with another 10 mm to 15 mm falling Tuesday and again on Wednesday.

Quebec Public Security Minister Francois Bonnardel said on Twitter that he planned to visit the affected region on Tuesday, accompanied by local members of the province’s legislature. The Public Security Department said earlier in the day that flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains had closed roads in the Lanaudiere, Laurentians and Outaouais regions.

The municipality of St-Come, Que., in the Lanaudiere region, north of Montreal, declared a state of emergency and asked residents in parts of the community to evacuate.

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