Quebec premier visits Saguenay, Que., area under threat of landslides, promises aid

·3 min read

SAGUENAY, Que. — Most of the people evacuated from a Saguenay, Que., neighbourhood because of the threat of landslides will eventually be able to return to their homes, Quebec Premier François Legault said Wednesday.

Five homes must be demolished, however, and four others might also need to come down, Legault told reporters after meeting with evacuees in the La Baie neighbourhood, around 200 kilometres north of Quebec City. Nearly 200 people in the area were forced from their homes over the weekend because of the unstable earth.

"I understand that there's been stress for all the people," Legault said. "There are people who had to leave quickly, who didn't even have the chance to get their clothes. There are houses that will be demolished, (people) who will lose their furniture; that's one of the challenges."

The government, Legault said, will increase payments to people left homeless, to a maximum of $375,000 from a maximum of $260,000 announced earlier this week. That money will help residents rebuild their homes, he added. The province will also increase the daily living expense allowance for each evacuee to $40 from $20.

Among the affected residents Legault met on Wednesday were Charles-David Bergeron Brisson and Érika Simard, who were forced to flee their home with their five children. The family will lose the house.

"It's not easy to be told at the last minute that you have to leave your house, especially when you have five children," Legault said. "It's important to reassure them."

Authorities have said 192 residents have been relocated from 76 homes after a landslide destroyed a house last week. Legault said government engineers have reassured him that 67 families will be able to return home once work is done to stabilize the ground.

“The work will still take a long time; we're talking about two to four months, so I can understand that for the 67 families who will eventually be able to return to their home, this will be a difficult period," he said.

Saguenay Mayor Julie Dufour told reporters that all the evacuees have been invited to a meeting with city officials scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

The raise in the daily expense allowance for evacuees is beyond what the city had asked for, she said, thanking Legault for his "benevolence and empathy for people who are currently experiencing a tragedy."

Most of the evacuees have found temporary housing, Legault said, adding that many are staying with family or friends. The City of Saguenay, he added, is helping others find temporary shelter.

"Thank you to those who welcomed the families temporarily into their homes," the premier said. "It's beautiful to see that in Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean people are sticking together; it's encouraging."

The city declared a state of emergency over the weekend and evacuated the affected area. The Quebec government extended the emergency order on Monday. A city spokesperson said experts are warning that the land in the district is unstable and at risk of imminent landslides.

Legault said the evacuation likely saved lives. "No one was injured," he said. "That’s probably the most important thing."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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