September 24, 2018 3:39 pm
Updated: September 24, 2018 5:48 pm

‘Nothing is really easy right now’: Some Gatineau residents still can’t access homes after tornado

WATCH: Jamel Ben Salem held his children and wife close as the tornado touched down in Gatineau. He was injured by flying debris – and couldn’t find his car. Watch him tell his story to Abigail Bimman – you can spot his mangled red SUV over his shoulder.

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Some Gatineau residents forced from their homes by Friday’s violent tornado are growing anxious waiting to get past the red caution tape strewn across their doorsteps and back inside their apartments to retrieve their belongings.

On Friday night, a category EF-3 tornado ripped through the west Ottawa community of Dunrobin and blasted across the river to Gatineau, where it tore through at least 200 buildings in the city’s Mont-Bleu neighbourhood, damaging more than 1,650 housing units.

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READ MORE: Timeline: Tornadoes, high winds cause heavy damage, power loss in National Capital Region

Resident Louis Legault told Global News he hasn’t been back inside his apartment since the tornado forced him out on Friday night. He said city crews are talking about bringing in an engineer to evaluate whether his building is structurally sound enough for him and his neighbours to go back inside.

But he’s gotten no indication about when that will be.

“Nothing’s really easy right now,” he said.

Legault said he’s not worried about “replaceable” things like his furniture but he is anxious to see the state of more sentimental possessions, like those that belonged to his mother, who he said passed away three years ago.

Mont-Bleu resident Louis Legault said city crews are talking about bringing in an engineer to evaluate whether his building is structurally sound enough for him and his neighbours to go back inside and retrieve their belongings.

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The Gatineau man said he’s been staying with a friend in the meantime, and the owner of the company that runs his building is helping affected residents relocate to one of the company’s other properties.

Jeremy Nelson, a resident of the same building, is stuck in the same boat – except, after three days without any belongings, he decided to enter his unit without permission to grab his clothes and other personal items.

Global News found him on Monday morning pulling more possessions from his smashed vehicle parked on the street.

Nelson called himself “the lucky one” in the low-rise complex because his mid-level unit wasn’t seriously damaged in the powerful storm.

“It was pretty crazy. I mean, it woke me up, I looked outside and I see… all that,” said Nelson, who was sleeping ahead his night shift on Friday. “There was all this whiteness outside, and then I run forward and I think I got a glimpse of it and then it was gone and I just saw all this destruction.”

Jeremy Nelson calls himself “the lucky one” in his low-rise complex because his mid-level unit wasn’t seriously damaged in Friday’s powerful windstorm.

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Unlike Nelson, resident Jamel Ben Salem couldn’t even locate his car after the tornado had passed. He later found the red SUV dumped on its side on the lawn as a result of the violent winds.

Pacing the area in front of his property on Monday, Salem recalled seeing doors and windows flying through the air from his home, where he hid inside with his wife and two children.

But he doesn’t remember much more than that, he said — not even what, exactly hit him on his arm, causing Salem to get five stitches.

“I don’t remember. It’s terrible, it’s horrible,” said Salem, saying he was the only one injured in his family.

Gatineau resident Jamel Ben Salem said he couldn’t locate his car immediately after Friday’s violent tornado ripped through the city’s Mont-Bleu neighbourhood.

Global News

Environment Canada confirmed over the weekend that the tornado these Gatineau residents experienced was an EF-3 category twister with winds that reached 265 km/h.

Despite a massive cleanup operation that’s been going on for several days, the Mont-Bleu street is still a mess of rubble, debris, glass and downed power lines. Police cars and Hydro-Québec crews are stationed throughout the neighbourhood, which is filled with partially collapsed roofs and walls.

READ MORE: Here’s how the Ottawa-Gatineau tornadoes formed so quickly

As of this weekend, at least $1 million was made available by the province of Quebec to assist the Red Cross in immediate recovery, including transportation of people to temporary housing facilities and food.

Premier Philippe Couillard said on Saturday while surveying the damage that more help will come if needed, but putting a finger on the cost isn’t yet possible.

– With files from Abigail Bimman

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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