Professor studying Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac flood offers ideas for avoiding similar disasters

One year after the Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac dike ruptured, resulting in the evacuation of 6,000 people, an expert who studied the flood has come to worrisome conclusions.

Among her concerns are a lack of awareness of the risks posed by the dike, children’s rooms being located in basements in flood zones, and suicide attempts following the disaster. 

“This event reveals a major need for preparation in terms of emergency measures in the event of a disaster,” said Isabelle Thomas, a professor from the Université de Montréal.

The purpose of the study is to help municipalities prepare for and, hopefully, avoid such disastrous floods in future. An event of this magnitude “is an opportunity to learn to adapt and do prevention work,” Thomas said. 

The Sainte-Marthe floods were a first for Quebec – a dike that wasn’t connected to a dam failed and caused major damage. On the evening of April 27, 2019, during significant spring flooding, the Sainte-Marthe dam broke. The city was soon flooded with water, affecting 700 to 800 homes. More than 6,000 citizens – a third of the municipal population – were evacuated in just over an hour. No one died. 

Thomas, who is a specialist in issues relating to sustainable development and urban vulnerability, has been studying this flood all year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2020. 

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