It was one the most devastating natural disasters in Canadian history.
Twenty-two years later, the photos continue to be a harrowing reminder of the destruction that can be caused by floodwaters.
The Saguenay River system flows in an area approximately 250 kilometres north of Quebec City. In July 1996, torrential rainfall hit the region and the water continued to flow through lakes, rivers and streams until it couldn’t take it anymore.
Over a three-day period, beginning on July 19, 1996, communities in the Saguenay area received between 100 to 275 millimetres of rain, CBC News reported. Quebec’s Musee du Fjord said there was so much rain earlier in the month that the ground could not absorb more precipitation.
“As a matter of fact, between the 1st and the 17th of July 1996, this territory received 120.5 millimetres of water, the equivalent of July’s average monthly rainfall,” the Musee du Fjord says on its website.
Waterways overflowed, roads flooded, dams failed, landslides occurred and property was destroyed.
The Canadian Armed Forces were asked to step in to provide immediate assistance to thousands who had been cut off from civilization due to the floods, with some being airlifted, driven or boated to safety. The Weather Network reported 450 Canadian Forces troops helped with sandbagging and evacuation efforts. Residents forced to leave their homes had to live at CFB Bagotville.
The devastation was enormous: 10 people were killed and more than 12,000 were displaced, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia. Hundreds of homes were also destroyed and the damage was estimated to range somewhere between $300 million to $500 million, with some estimates pegging it at $1.5 billion.
At the time, it was the worst flooding event in Canada since Hurricane Hazel killed 81 people in Ontario, mostly the Toronto area, in 1954.