While the material damage caused by the recent floods in Montreal is readily apparent to all, less visible but just as significant are the lingering health impacts on flood victims, according to a report released Tuesday by Montreal’s director of Public Health Dr. Richard Massé.
“Our survey shows that almost 70 per cent of respondents reported having suffered from anxiety, sleep disturbances or concentration problems since the floods,” Massé said.
Health care professionals toured flooded areas of Cartierville, Île Bizard and Pirrefonds in mid-May surveying 200 households.
“It’s understandable,” said Pierrefonds-Roxboro Mayor, Jim Beis. “I mean, they have to rebuild. Not only their homes, but their lives with limited resources.
Of those 200 residences, some homes had received a code red rating from the Montreal fire department meaning they were not allowed to return home due to health and safety concerns, while others had no restrictions at all and were not forced to evacuate.
But what all flood victims had in common was they were five times more likely than other Montrealers to report fair to poor mental health.
According to Massé, financial worries were likely to lead to increased anxiety among flood victims.
“The survey showed that 75 per cent of respondents did not have flood insurance. The number is 80 per cent among evacuees,” he said.
And the problems don’t end there.
One in three households reported physical ailments mostly related to breathing. Symptoms included coughing, irritation and even difficulty breathing.
Massé said mould, which grows quickly after a flood, could be the culprit, adding that time was of the essence.
“It’s very important to carry out the work needed to avoid being exposed to mould,” he said.
But that could be easier said than done.
More than half of those surveyed said they lack the physical capacity and, or the financial means to go ahead with cleanup efforts.
Beis said he feels for the flood victims and encourages them to ask for help if they need it.
“We know the agents have been on site since day 1. We’ve had them at the administrative centre, particularly in my borough,” Beis said. “But we know that the anxiety stems, a lot of the time, for the lack of resources and funding that they may or may not receive, which would allow them to get back some normalcy in their lives.”
Several programs have been put in place to help flood victims cope with the aftermath.
Both the Santé Montreal and Urgence Québec website have information on returning home and cleaning up.