High water levels are starting to recede after a dike burst, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac in the Laurentians.
Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault announced on Monday that the evacuation order is still in effect and advises residents to avoid the area northwest of Montreal.
“We are on alert when it comes to the situation in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac,” she said, adding it is too early to know when evacuees will be able to return home.
A natural dike failed on Saturday evening and triggered emergency evacuations in the municipality, which is home to about 18,000 people. The burst sent rushing water from the Lake of Two Mountains into the community, immediately flooding streets and homes.
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to assist residents. In total, more than 2,500 homes were flooded and 6,000 people were forced to flee.
Guilbault said teams worked through the night to ensure the public made it safely out of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac.
Local officials say construction of a temporary dike along 23rd Avenue is completed and another one is being built on 29th Avenue.
WATCH: Emotional reunion as homeowner reunites with pet after emergency evacuations in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac
Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac Mayor Sonia Paulus said some residents were able to return briefly to gather their belongings but others in heavily flooded areas could not access their homes. Several schools in the area and surrounding neighbourhoods are also closed.
The SQ is also reminding flood victims in evacuated areas they must consult with municipal authorities before returning home.
“Police or firefighters must accompany them to ensure their safety,” the SQ said.
Quebec Premier François Legault said on Sunday it was “almost a miracle” no one in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac was hurt.
Municipality asked to upgrade dike
Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac officials said they had recently inspected the natural dike and had filed a request to the Quebec government to upgrade it. Guilbault confirmed Monday that the request was received earlier this year, but it had not been granted yet.
“We received this request in February,” she said. “It is being analyzed with the criteria from the Environment Ministry.”
WATCH: Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac emergency evacuations
Guilbault said the municipality will receive an answer but that the government is still in emergency mode as flooding continues across the province.
“What is important to say is we will have to have a larger reflection on how we do prevent more flooding and how do we equip our municipalities to be able to face those floods,” said Guilbault.
‘My house is not in a flood area’
As the water levels start to lower, Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac residents are still in shock nearly two days after water gushed through the streets and into their homes.
Valérie Deslauriers ended up kayaking through her neighbourhood to check on her home after she was forced to flee. On Saturday evening, she was having dinner with her children when everything went dark.
“We saw the water just rising quickly,” she said, adding it became “total chaos.”
The hardest part for Deslauriers comes from knowing that she and her family thought they chose a house that was safe from flooding. Now, her living room is filled with three feet of water.
“My house is not located in a flood area,” she said. “I wasn’t supposed to live in the situation.”
—With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier, Elysia Bryan-Baynes and the Canadian Press