Another 5 houses to be demolished in Saguenay, Que., due to landslide threat

·4 min read
Quebec Premier François Legault met the couple that lost their home in the June 13 landslide in the La Baie borough of Saguenay, Que., Wednesday.  (Émilie Warren/CBC News - image credit)
Quebec Premier François Legault met the couple that lost their home in the June 13 landslide in the La Baie borough of Saguenay, Que., Wednesday. (Émilie Warren/CBC News - image credit)

The Quebec government will help pay for a new house for the Saguenay, Que., family that lost theirs when it was destroyed in a landslide on June 13, said Premier François Legault.

"I want to reassure you right away, we'll cover the cost of reconstruction," Legault told Erika Simard and Charles-David Bergeron-Brisson when he met them Wednesday in a parking lot below where their house once stood.

"At least financially, you'll be OK," Legault said.

The premier flew to Saguenay to see for himself the devastation caused by the landslide and meet some of the 192 residents who have so far been forced from their homes due to the high risk of further slides.

Almost 80 houses in the La Baie borough of Saguenay, about 240 kilometres north of Quebec City, have been evacuated.

Legault said at least five more houses will have to be demolished because the ground they're on is too unstable and they are unsafe to live in. Another four houses could face demolition.

Brisson and Simard lived in the home they bought four years ago with their five children, aged one to 10. They learned two months ago their house was in danger of sliding, when they were given a preventative evacuation order.

The couple told Legault they only had time to grab some clothes and a few toys for their children, thinking they would eventually be able to return to their home to retrieve more of their belongings.

Legault said the government will be increasing the amount of financial compensation available to those who lost or stand to lose their houses. The maximum amount will now be $385,000 to cover building, and additional funding to help pay for new furniture and appliances.

Émilie Warren/CBC News
Émilie Warren/CBC News

Bergeron-Brisson said he didn't know yet whether that amount would be sufficient to replace their home, but he thanked the premier for his support.

The pair is hoping to find somewhere in the same area for the family to stay.

More help for evacuees

Émilie Warren/CBC
Émilie Warren/CBC

The rest of the houses within the evacuation zone appear to be safe for now, Legault said, but residents won't be allowed to return home for a few months, until more soil testing confirms they're not at risk.

The government is doubling the daily compensation the evacuees are eligible to receive, from $20 to $40 per day.

"That'll cover almost the food," said Jonathan Ouellette, one of the affected residents, laughing. He said they have to dig into their savings for other necessities.

Ouellette's house is not on the list of homes to be demolished, but Ouellette says he's not holding his breath because he thinks the situation could still change.

"It's going to be a long run, that's it. If you think it's going to be solved tomorrow, you're way off the charts," he said.

The former member of the Canadian Forces said he would like to be able to get his military medals if ever residents are allowed back in the evacuation zone, however briefly, to pick up more belongings.

He is now at a hotel and still doesn't know where he'll be staying next. He said the city's municipal housing office offered him an apartment in another borough, but it's only for a few days and far from where his son is living.

He said finding a new house won't be easy.

"You see the market. Now it's moving day; you have the Saint-Jean Baptiste that's coming up; you've got Canada's birthday, as well," he said. "It's the perfect storm."

Émilie Warren/CBC News
Émilie Warren/CBC News

Dominique Simard and her partner Alain Larouche, who also live in the evacuation zone, are now staying at a hotel.

"We took what we thought," Simard said. "We have a cat, we brought it, but we also have fish — for sure it will die."

Simard and Larouche said they are happy that the government is increasing their daily allowance.

"We're getting a place to stay for free, but we'll need all the little items that we have in a house but that we won't have [where we are now.]"

Simard said they'll use the money to buy things like towels, sheets and dishes — and a television, so they can watch the news.

"We'll have to buy all those things, as if we were moving to a new place," she said.

Émilie Warren/CBC News
Émilie Warren/CBC News

Saguenay's mayor, Julie Dufour, said she was very satisfied with the measures put in place by the province.

"It's even higher than my expectations. We understand that the premier has a very full agenda," she said. "For me, today, he represents a government of kindness and empathy for people who are living a tragedy."

Quebec's Ministry of Transport will be providing more information about the landslides and their soil analysis Wednesday evening.

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