Quebec's historic flooding forcing residents to 'discover our neighbours'
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DEUX MONTAGNES, Que. — As Liz Smart sat in a canoe outside her Montreal-area home, surrounded by several feet of water, she joked about having to make sure her husband's ashes were kept on high ground.
"I know it's morbid but it's the truth," she mused in an interview Tuesday. "He built this house 10 years ago — in three months. He was a master plumber. I was like, 'out of all the times I need you here!' He could have come in handy."
It took only a few hours Sunday morning for the water in Smart's basement in Deux-Montagnes to reach just below the first floor. Nonetheless, she was in relatively good spirits being transported around the neighbourhood by her friend James Taylor in his rented canoe.
"When my husband died (a year ago) I was very alone; it was a very lonely time," Smart said. "This is a collective. People are smiling. They are putting things into perspective — your wealth is your health."
Not far away, the water was acting like a moat around Sylvie Briere's flooded stone house but that didn't prevent her from emphasizing the positive.
"The solidarity is incredible," she said. "We have discovered our neighbours."
Briere said she and her neighbours spent Saturday night together building a wall of sand with the help of concrete blocks that were transported to the end of her street by another resident.
By 5 a.m. Sunday she was awoken by a knock at her door and the news the water had burst over their makeshift dam.
"There is no one to blame," she said, her voice quivering. "When this is over we all decided were going to have a block party. My stepson has a food truck and he's going to give everyone ice cream."
Roughly 130 homes are flooded in the community of 20,000, prompting the mayor to declare a state of emergency on Monday that allows municipal authorities to buy supplies quickly without having to go through the normal tendering process.
Deux-Montagnes director general Benoit Ferland said, "there was nothing we could do" to save homes from the water.
"We laid sandbags very high and the water passed over," he said. "It would have taken a Berlin Wall to save us from the river."
Another local resident, Lorianne St-Aubin, was also out and about Tuesday, her SUV parked at an intersection not far from the water's edge.
Inside the vehicle were her three kids, aged between six months and three years — and a large cooler full of soup donated from the local IGA grocery store.
She began ladling out the contents and distributing soup in white plastic foam cups.
"Everyone here is willing to give a hand and that's what is giving people hope," St-Aubin said.
A few blocks away, Gaetano Tagliarini's dog was prancing through the water, snatching floating branches and proudly bringing them back to dry land.
Tagliarini said it took six hours for the water to reach his house from the corner of the street a few metres away.
He was standing outside his house, next to a pump allowing water to exit his basement, and talking to neighbours with his father, Vincenzo.
"I think the response was OK," Tagliarini said. "They came with sandbags Sunday afternoon. We had time to fill them up and protect the doors and windows. Everyone was helping each other."
Vincenzo said he would have preferred it had the city given pumps to residents who needed them.
"We have 300 homes around here that are flooded," he said. "What's 300 pumps?"
Vincenzo also had a suggestion for the province about how it can help flood victims.
"Loto-Quebec should take its profits from the lottery and spread it around here," he said, a half-serious look in his eye.