1. Archive

Floods wash away homes, leave 8 dead in Quebec

Flooding inundated much of southern Quebec on Sunday, breaking a dam, washing houses downstream and sending thousands of people to emergency shelters.

Rainstorms have killed at least eight people since they set in Friday, bringing more rain in two days than communities along the Saguenay River normally see in all of July.

"It's just horrible, horrible," one woman said in the river town of Jonquiere. "I never thought I'd see anything like this."

The Saguenay River region, about 200 miles north of Montreal, was the hardest hit in the flooding.

Victims include two children killed in their sleep when a mudslide buried a house in La Baie on Saturday, and a driver killed Saturday as she tried to cross a surging river.

On Sunday, police recovered the bodies of four other motorists whose cars had been swept into a crevice in a highway near Baie-Trinite on the St. Lawrence River, said Marc Lavallee of Quebec's civil security department.

Searchers also found the body of a boater who sent a distress signal two days earlier from the flooded St. Lawrence River near the mouth of the Saguenay River. The other two people aboard the sailboat still are missing in the flood, as are an undetermined number of other people.

A small dam in Chicoutimi ruptured Sunday, forcing the evacuation of the Saguenay River city's downtown.

In all, flooding has driven an estimated 10,000 people from their homes.

Regis Simard of Boilleau took refuge Sunday in a military base's gymnasium after water reached the roof of his house.

"My wife was in a state of shock," Simard said. "She cried all night."

Streets in several communities, particularly La Baie, turned into rivers as the deluge knocked out electricity and telephone services for tens of thousands of people.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien flew to the region on Sunday to inspect the damage, estimated in the tens of millions of dollars.

Heavy rains also caused problems in the Charlevoix region northeast of Quebec City, where officials feared that two dams belonging to a pulp and paper company could burst, threatening the company's nearby chemical factory.

The floods also covered roads in some of eastern and central Quebec, isolating several communities.

More than 5 inches had fallen along the Saguenay River by midday Saturday. The rain stopped Sunday, although swollen rivers stayed out of their banks.