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More troops deployed as Canada braces for worse flooding

© AFP | Soldiers help residents of Pierrefonds after heavy flooding caused by unrelenting rain

OTTAWA (AFP) - 

With heavy rains persisting and waters still rising over much of waterlogged eastern Canada, the nation's military on Sunday tripled the number of troops urgently working to evacuate thousands of residents.

New evacuations were ordered in Pierrefonds, on the northwestern shore of the Island of Montreal, after three temporary dikes ruptured, sending water levels higher.

A combination of torrential rains and runoff from melting snow has caused rivers to overflow their banks from Ottawa to Montreal, posing critical challenges for people already stressed and exhausted by the seemingly endless rainfall.

More than 1,000 people have been evacuated in Quebec province, the largest number coming from Gatineau, near Ottawa, said a statement Sunday from the province's emergency response unit.

Nearly 2,000 homes have been flooded in 126 affected towns and cities, with authorities urging residents to evacuate before it is too late.

The worst is yet to come, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard warned on Saturday.

"The water will continue rising over the next two or three days," he said after visiting the town of Rigaud, east of Montreal, which has been flooded for more than a week.

Water levels continued to rise across much of an area of some 500 kilometers (300 miles), from Toronto and Lake Ontario and stretching downstream along the St. Lawrence River.

The Ministry of Public Safety said waters were expected to crest sometime Monday in Quebec province, where flooding has been especially bad.

Some 450 troops were dispatched by Saturday to help with evacuations, but the Public Safety Ministry said that number was expected to triple by the end of Sunday.

"Our troops are responding quickly and professionally and are already beginning to deliver critical support to Canadians affected by the flooding," Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said.

Emergency services warned that rising waters would reach regions east of Montreal, where precipitation by Sunday night could reach 90 to 125 millimeters (3.5 to 5 inches).

"The ground, already near saturation, has little ability to absorb further rainfall," Environment Canada said in a weather alert for the region.

"Even shallow, fast-moving water across a road can sweep a vehicle or a person away. Don't approach washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts. Consider moving valuable items to higher levels."

- Evacuations continue -

Near the Atlantic, the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization warned residents to remain on alert until Monday, saying water levels are near or above flood stage in many regions and expected to rise.

"I understand people are reluctant to leave their homes," Couillard said, "but if you're asked, do it for your own safety."

Meanwhile, in British Columbia on the opposite side of the country, the same combination of rain and snow melt has caused flooding and mudslides that left at least two people missing, media reports said.

Residents of several dozen homes were ordered to move to safety.

Police were searching for Clayton Cassidy, 59, the fire chief of the village of Cache Creek, who went missing Friday as he was checking creek water levels.

The search included swift-water technicians and dog teams, Corporal Dan Moskaluk said in a news release.

A 76-year-old man was missing after a mudslide Saturday swept away his home in the community of Tappen, CBC reported.

First responders rushed to the scene but were forced to pull back.

"It sounded like a freight train coming down the mountain... We heard trees snapping and it got louder and louder, so we got out of there," Tappen Sunnybrae Fire Department Chief Kyle Schneider told the broadcaster.

The slide forced the closure of two highways.

© 2017 AFP