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Army of volunteers helps with Quebec flood cleanup

Serious flooding south of Montreal. Photo courtesy SOS Richelieu.
Serious flooding south of Montreal. Photo courtesy SOS Richelieu.

Jill Colton, staff writer

June 11, 2011 — Thousands of people have signed up to help the cleanup efforts in the Richelieu Valley this weekend.

Residents are overwhelmed by the high water levels.
Residents are overwhelmed by the high water levels.

The first round of volunteers has arrived in the Richelieu Valley to help clean up after a prolonged flood.

A big job lies ahead. The volunteers will pick up 500,000 sandbags and clear away branches and debris.

More than 2,000 volunteers are participating in the cleanup project this weekend. But about 10,000 people have signed up to assist the owners of thousands of homes and businesses that were damaged by water levels considered to be the highest in over a century.

A mandatory evacuation was ordered over a month ago and many people still haven't been able to return home.

The flooding itself began nearly two months ago, when the Richelieu River burst its banks due in part to heavy rains and a large snowmelt.

“I've only lived here for five years, in the area of Saint Jean, and from neighbours that have been living here longer, they said this is the worst they've seen in over 20 years,” says Quebec resident Sean Moore.

“This is pretty bad. It's kind of scary.”

The streets of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu are still lined with sandbags and, at one point, people resorted to boats and canoes to get around.

This weekend's big cleanup has been organized by a group called SOS Richelieu, and it's set to continue over the weekend of June 18 and 19.

Based on the public's response, the group is considering adding a third weekend.

In a post on the group's Facebook page, organizer Michel Fecteau thanked the volunteers for their support.

“I know there will be many beautiful gestures throughout this great gathering of volunteers,” he wrote. “Your actions will make a difference in the lives of our people and make history.”

The flooding situation hasn't changed much since April.
The flooding situation hasn't changed much since April.

Many people have completely lost their homes and others have a long road of repairs ahead.

“The basement is all destroyed,” said St-Jean-sur-Richelieu resident Nadine Galipeau.

“So we have lost my daughter's room and the living room,” she added.

Many residents are extremely grateful for the extra help coming this weekend, including seniors in the area, who are in need of special assistance.

The Quebec government has said it will offer financial assistance to communities affected by the floods. About 800 Canadian Forces troops were deployed to the region to help residents.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently toured the Quebec flood zone and spoke with those affected.

For more information on the SOS Richelieu project please visit their Facebook page.

With files from The Canadian Press and Lyndsay Morrison

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