Canada prepares for flooding and landslides after heavy rains soak eastern province

The Eastern Townships in Quebec is bracing for flooding, landslides and destruction of entire rural towns

A Canadian province has opened up a voluntary evacuation to residents of outlying areas of the region where waters are expected to recede over the next two days after a flood swamped a once-revered riding.

Much of the Eastern Townships, the lush tourist region of Quebec, was underwater on Tuesday as rains and ice jams, the cold weather expected for weeks ahead, caused water levels to rise.

Heavy rain in Ontario has forced provincial police to ask the army to assist in rescue operations in the northern Ontario region of Thunder Bay, in several rivers there, in addition to Canadians in Québec.

The ICF Sea Titan, a ship-based helicopter used by the Canadian army, was heading to the province in a contract with Natural Resources Canada, to help with clearing debris and ferrying people to higher ground.

The weather service said to expect rain for the next two to three weeks, “particularly across parts of Ontario, northwestern Quebec and Nova Scotia”. Canadian officials have said that this may not be the worst case scenario, with the chance of flooding predicted.

A Labrador, assistant provincial minister, Michel Cayer, said that the province had asked the army to send a team to the east coast to help people “locate home, get everything in order, and to get people to safety”. The island of Labrador is located off Quebec.

The New Brunswick mayor of Trois-Rivières, Bartley Hawkes, said there were a few hotel rooms available to those affected.

Many residents of the area have been displaced for more than a month. David Masse, the Canadian finance minister, said the government would not be providing financial assistance, but that governments around the world can make emergency relief provisions.

Les Nuits d’un Géantes, a popular restaurant in a downtown of Saint-Jerome, 10km from St-Jerome-de-Beauce, was inundated on Tuesday night, while, about 10 minutes away in nearby St-Maurice-des-Saints, the Lac des Neiges river broke through its banks.

Le Cliff, a local beekeeper, has been told to move his hives. “We have been on vacation for 14 days. I am in a hurry,” he said. “I don’t have any time left.”

Emergency services reported widespread damage in St-Jerome-de-Beauce, with the St Lawrence river, a major tourist attraction, rising to several metres deep.

Saint-Jerome is a 6th-century French cathedral on the St Lawrence river, whose fortified walls are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Canadian navy has come to its aid to bring food, medicine and water to stranded residents.

The mayor of Saint-Jerome-de-Beauce, Jean-Claude Rouleau, warned of landslides, road closures and power outages. “It’s an area of high risk,” he said. “Be prepared because we are going to get flooded streets, and the encircling forest.”

Le Cliff said he was wearing a pair of boots to help keep his bees dry, adding that he did not have much time left in his garden. “But we have an ordinance book,” he said, pointing to the filing cabinet between him and the hive.

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