Why COVID-19 could affect spring flooding response in Quebec

Click to play video: 'New flood management plan needed due to COVID-19'
New flood management plan needed due to COVID-19
WATCH: With spring on its way, some municipalities have two problems on their hands – Covid-19 and possible flooding. They also have to contend with restrictions designed to prevent the spread of the virus. Global’s Dan Spector talked to West Island mayors about their planning strategy. – Mar 17, 2020

The Quebec government is advising it will not be able to set up emergency shelters for displaced citizens in the case of spring flooding amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault addressed the issue in a social media post, saying the novel coronavirus pandemic is changing how the province will handle potential floods this year.

“We hope to be spared from flooding, but we must be ready to face this additional issue which threatens to affect several regions,” she said.

The risk of contamination means that the provincial government will not be opening emergency shelters if flooding occurs, according to Guilbault.

READ MORE: Quebec ramps up testing in bid to contain coronavirus

As part of the plan, Guilbault is calling on municipalities and towns to secure accommodations such as hotels and universities to house future victims. They will also have to provide toilet paper and hygiene products to limit the spread of the virus.

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Citizens in high-risk areas are also being asked to prepare and find housing options if they are flooded at home.

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“I am aware that we are asking for a huge effort, but this is an exceptional context which requires action accordingly,” said Guilbault.

The impact of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is leaving municipal officials in areas that have been hard hit by flooding in recent years with questions.

Click to play video: 'Pierrefonds in cleanup mode following spring floods'
Pierrefonds in cleanup mode following spring floods

Pierrefonds-Roxboro Mayor Jim Beis told Global News that he will meet with Guilbault this week. He said he has teams on the ground evaluating some areas, but said that water levels appear to be normal.

While he understands it’s best to not pack potential flood victims in a shelter during the outbreak, he is also concerned about the other ways the novel coronavirus could impact the community in the event of flooding.

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“If this virus continues into potential flood season, how will we mobilize volunteers or anyone for that matter and not have a large amount of people gathered?” he said.

While there are concerns about the spread of COVID-19, a spokesperson for Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the virus will not limits the city’s capacity to respond to floods.

“Our power to intervene is done specifically at the technical level and we have both the equipment and the human resources necessary to intervene,” the spokesperson said.

READ MORE: Montreal restaurants adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions

With files from Global News’ Dan Spector and the Canadian Press

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