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Risk of more landslides in Saguenay, Que., experts assess next steps

Wednesday, June 22nd 2022, 12:15 pm - Saguenay, Que., evacuees promised a place to stay by end of week as experts assess if homes can be saved

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The city of Saguenay is aiming to house all 187 residents forced from their homes Sunday due to the threat of more landslides.

A total of 79 residences were evacuated in the La Baie borough of Saguenay, about 240 kilometres north of Quebec City, after one house in the vicinity was destroyed in a landslide last week.

After assessing the risk, the city declared a local state of emergency late Saturday, concluding that another, bigger landslide is inevitable and only a matter of time.

"Right now housing is definitely the biggest challenge," said Dominic Arseneau, a spokesperson for the city. "Our objective is to find enough accommodation by the end of the week."

Arseneau confirmed that all evacuees currently have somewhere to stay, whether it is at a second residence, a friend or family member's place, or at a hotel. But the city is looking at relocating the residents to more permanent housing where they can stay until the evacuation order is lifted.


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Saguenay landslide 2022/ Submitted by Jonathan Ouellette via CBC Jonathan Ouellette, whose home was evacuated Sunday, took this photograph last week of site of the landslide that destroyed one home on June 13 in the Saguenay, Que., borough of La Baie. (Submitted by Jonathan Ouellette)

On Tuesday the city put in place a web page for people to learn more about how to make donations.

"The donations we really want to receive are appliances and furniture," explained Arseneau.

Municipal and provincial officials met with evacuees Monday afternoon.

They announced they would be installing cameras, gates and security guards to protect property in the evacuation zone, making sure no one breaks into the empty houses.

They also offered those affected some financial assistance and promised compensation to residents if they can never return to their homes..


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Nicolas Gagnon, who lives with his elderly mother in a duplex he owns in the affected area, said he is grateful for the help with finding a new place to stay.

He asked to be relocated to a ground-floor apartment so his mother won't have to walk up stairs.

"I have to think about my mother's well-being because it's not just a question of a week or two weeks — it's weeks or even months," he said.

The hardest part has been the loss of a routine, Gagnon said. He is looking forward to having a kitchen where he can cook his own meals instead of relying on expensive restaurant food.

Jonathan Ouellette, another evacuee, said people have been very generous, offering him their cottages or RVs.

He said he is grateful the government is offering some help, although he finds the province's daily stipend of $20 somewhat low. Nonetheless, he said he is trying to stay positive.

The average age of people who have been evacuated from their homes is 70, he said.

"Our elders are very close to my heart," said Ouellette. "If they are secured, everything is good for me."

Nicolas Gagnon/CBC Nicolas Gagnon, who was in Quebec City when he received the eviction notice, drove two and a half hours home Saturday to prepare for him and his elderly mother to move. (CBC)


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Speaking in Sherbrooke, Que., Premier François Legault expressed his support for the victims and said he is following the situation "hour by hour."

He said the government is studying the possibility of offering more assistance, if needed.

"Safety is at stake, and there is no room for compromise," Legault said.

He said anyone who loses their house is entitled to $260,000 — $210,000 for the house and $50,000 for the land. He said the government would be studying whether that is sufficient.

Legault told reporters he is working with Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault, Quebec's minister of municipal affairs and housing, Andrée Laforest, the Red Cross and municipal officials to make sure everyone finds a place to live and families are supported financially.

Daniel Dallaire/Sandra Hercegova/CBC Daniel Dallaire's home is next on the list if officials decide to expand the perimeter of the evacuation zone. (Sandra Hercegova/CBC)

"I understand that it's not fun to be told to leave your home like that, quickly," he said.

The Red Cross has provided evacuees with $150 gift cards to cover the cost of food and other items for the first three days, after which the Ministry of Public Safety will be taking over and providing the $20 daily stipends.


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Nearby residents worried they could be next

Transport Ministry workers and geotechnical engineers from a firm called Englobe were busy conducting tests and analyzing the soils Monday, as they continue to assess the situation and see if some of the homes can be saved.

People living near the evacuation zone are on high alert, waiting to hear if they, too, will be forced to leave.

Valérie Tremblay, the mother of a three-year-old and an eight-month-old, said the situation is stressful.

"It's especially the house," she said. "If we leave, we don't know when we'll be back, and we don't know if our house will still be there."

She and her partner have been packing and preparing a contingency plan to stay at her mother's house.

"So that we're not taken by surprise, we're preparing a suitcase to have everything we would need [for] two children, in case we had to evacuate."

Saguenay landslide/Émilie Warren/CBC News City workers finished erecting two asphalt dikes to protect a major street from potential landslides early Monday. (Émilie Warren/CBC News)

Daniel Dallaire, who lives just outside the perimeter of the evacuation zone, watched as neighbours living just in front of him had to leave their homes over the weekend.

"They told me, 'You're OK. You can stay.' We breathed a sigh of relief," he said.

Dallaire said he could still be affected if the situation worsens.

And although he said he isn't too worried, he said his wife hasn't been able to sleep for two days, she is so stressed.

Saguenay is inviting those affected to call 418-699-6000 for support.

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This article, written by Émilie Warren, was originally published for CBC News.

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