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Quebec issues evacuation order in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge as dam could burst

WATCH: A dam that is upstream from the Ottawa River is being closely watched. Emergency officials in Quebec say the Bell Falls Dam is at imminent risk of failure. Mike Armstrong reports from near Grenville-sur-la-Rouge.

Quebec’s Public Security Ministry warns a hydroelectric dam in the Laurentians could fail due to flooding and has issued an evacuation order for the area.

The alert, which was launched at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, is in effect for the Grenville-sur-la-Rouge area near highways 50 and 148 and along Rouge River.

READ MORE: Montreal on alert, Rigaud predicts historic water levels as flooding hits Quebec

Residents between the Chute-Bell dam and the Outaouais River are asked to leave the area immediately.

“Avoid places near rivers, valleys and low areas,” the alert reads. “Follow the instructions of the local authorities.”

Quebec provincial police (SQ) say they are assisting about 250 residents in leaving the area.

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“Police are using all the means at their disposal to ensure people’s safety,” said the Sûreté du Québec on Twitter. “We ask residents of the areas affected by forced evacuations to co-operate with the authorities.”

WATCH: Quebec’s Public Security Ministry warns a hydroelectric dam in the Laurentians could fail due to flooding and has issued an evacuation order for the area.

Quebec issues evacuation order in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge as dam could burst
Quebec issues evacuation order in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge as dam could burst

READ MORE: Armed forces deployed as Quebec communities brace for spring floods

At a press conference Thursday evening, Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault confirmed the evacuation of 23 principal residences and 38 cottages in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge.

“It’s hard to know how many people live there, but the SQ is going door to door to make sure that all people who are there are evacuated,” she said.

She reassured citizens, saying it was a precautionary measure.

“Everyone is safe right now and so it’s important to say we are doing everything in our power to stay that way,” Guilbault said.

READ MORE: With flood fatigue sinking in, Quebec volunteers are changing their tactics

Simon Racicot, director of production at Hydro-Québec, also had reassuring words.

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“We’re confident today, because we’ve done frequent security analysis and this specific dam was designed for a flood once every thousand years,” he said.

He did admit, however, that Hydro-Québec was heading into uncharted territory.

“There’s always a safety factor in any design. The law on dam safety makes us define a certain level where we guarantee the dam and we have reached that level right now,” he said. “We’re entering an unknown zone, so we have to wait and see over the next few days.”

WATCH: Quebec has issued an evacuation order in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge after it was deemed a dam could burst and lead to severe flooding.

Residents of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge asked to evacuate
Residents of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge asked to evacuate

With rain in the forecast, the situation is being monitored very closely.

But even in a worst-case scenario, Racicot said impact downstream, where the Rouge meets the Ottawa River, would be minimal.

“Even if this dam fails completely, it would have no effect on the Outaouais [Ottawa] River,” he said. “So really, it’s an isolated situation and has no impact on our other installations.”

The dam failure alert will be maintained until 11:45 p.m. Thursday, according to the Quebec public security website.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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