Quebec will receive help from abroad in the coming days as about 10,000 people have been forced to leave their homes due to raging wildfires, the province’s premier announced Monday.
François Legault’s update on the situation comes as the tally rises to 164 wildfires burning across the province, including at least 114 that are out of control.
“We’re in a difficult situation with the forest fires,” said Legault, adding the priority to ensure the safety of affected residents. “There are many.”
No deaths have been reported in the province to date, according to Legault, but the damage has been extensive — especially in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Côte-Nord regions. With rain in the forecast for the Côte-Nord, Legault said he’s most worried about Abitibi, where no rain is expected for five days.
Earlier in the day, the minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region, Kateri Champagne Jourdain, told reporters in Sept-Îles, Que., that the blazes in her region northeast of Quebec City are unprecedented. One of the two fires threatening Sept-Îles is about six or seven kilometres from the city.
Jourdain says 138 Canadian Armed Forces soldiers arrived in the area Sunday. Another 100 are expected Monday, she said, adding that the troops have received training so that they can support Quebec’s wilderness firefighters.
As the wildfires burn, Legault said the province will receive additional support from abroad — including 200 firefighters from the United States and France — to help get the flames under control.
“In the next week, there will be manpower that arrives,” he told reporters.
The premier admitted Quebec hasn’t been able to count on other provinces for assistance as they face their own forest fires. The province can fight around 30 fires so it is looking internationally for support.
The government is in discussion with Costa Rica, Portugal and Chile for more resources, according to Legault.
Legault also initially said hamlet of Clova in the Mauricie region had to be abandoned. The province’s fire protection agency, known as SOPFEU, provided an update to say that while the fire has intensified, work is being done to protect the area. No homes have been destroyed, but some cabins may have burned down.
The smoke and haze are so thick from the fires that Environment Canada issued smog warnings for many regions, spanning as far as Montreal. Legault urged people to be cautious.
— with files from The Canadian Press