Chloé Gosselin didn’t sleep much last night. Looking down into the basement of her home in Baie-Saint-Paul, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, she could see her mattress floating alongside papers and drawings in muddy water.
“I basically had everything in there. That was my bedroom, my son’s bedroom, my second sitting room. I had all my valuables, all my papers,” said Gosselin.
“It’s going to be a lot of work in the next week. Right now it’s almost just taking it one minute at a time. So I guess I’m feeling a little bit dazed. A little bit in shock. It’s just going to be one hour at a time.”
Gosselin’s street is among those closed due to flooding after heavy rains swelled river levels across the province on Monday.
She says her home was flooded twice — but it was minor compared to this.
“It got bigger than I’ve ever seen it,” said Gosselin, who moved in 12 years ago.
People in her neighbourhood began spreading word that everyone should move their belongings out of their basement, but Gosselin says she couldn’t do it fast enough.
“We did our best,” said Gosselin, adding that they had to evacuate her home last night with just a backpack.
“This morning we went to rent a pump because my basement has right now probably like four feet of water in it.”
Gosselin first started to notice the river water levels rising yesterday while she was painting in her home. With power out in her home, she says the work will start today to drain her home and deal with the water damage and the thick layer of mud left behind.
‘There is a lot of solidarity’
Gosselin’s neighbour, Chantale Bouchard, also returned to see her home the day after the evacuation order. She said what happened is “just very sad,” adding that she had to take all her belongings and her dogs and go to a hotel.
“We are lucky, there was only a little water in the basement,” said Bouchard, looking over at her two-storey home surrounded by several centimetres of mud.
Another resident of the town, Cathy Martin, waded through dirt and water as she tried to check on her neighbour’s home because he was stuck on the other side of town due to bridge closures from the rainfall.
“We’re in a town where there is a lot of solidarity so we know everyone will help each other … We’re trying to save some personal belongings, some precious items,” said Martin. She said the flooding started just after she got home from a trip.
“Quickly things became very dramatic. People didn’t have access to their home, to electricity. I moved people into my home who couldn’t go home and I went to get my friend who is in a wheelchair all alone in his house so he is safe,” said Martin.
Looking up at a search and rescue helicopter that was flying close to the ground, she says she is saddened by the thought of the two local firefighters who are still missing.
“We were looking for them since yesterday and when you look at the river, at the state it was in, the force of nature my God, it’s unimaginable,” said Martin.
Bernard Tapin has lived in the area for 30 years and says while the region has storms and floods annually, this time it was different.
“It made me worry,” said Tapin, looking over to the right hand side of his property, where construction crews were digging out the site of a collapsed bridge.
‘It’s an act of God,’ homeowner says
Near the overflowing Rivière du Gouffre, the streets behind Paule Brassard’s Fraîcheurs et Saveurs candy shop are submerged.
The store owner said Tuesday she rushed to pick up her granddaughter from school after a torrent swept away a bridge, preventing her son from going.
“Never did I think this would happen,” she said. “I think people are very much in control of their emotions – they’re not panicking – but there’s sadness.”
“It’s so sad to see all the old houses with all the water.”
The city is continuing to ask people to stay home and avoid getting close to rivers.
All the schools and some daycares are closed for the day.
The city has also put in place a shelter at Saint-Aubin high school.
Jean-Yves Levtchuk whose home is by the Rivière du Gouffre said about 45 centimetres of water flowed into his house and wrecked the floors as well as the doors.
He said parts of houses on his street were swept into his neighbours’ yards.
“It’s an act of God,” he said. “You can’t do anything. It’s difficult.”
“We have to wait, and see if we can still live here because there was a lot of damage outside.”