The Quebec government will help pay for a new home for the family in Saguenay, Que., who lost theirs when it was destroyed in a landslide on June 13, Premier Francois Legault said.
“I want to reassure you right away, we will cover the reconstruction costs,” Legault told Erika Simard and Charles-David Bergeron-Brisson when he met them Wednesday in a parking lot below their house.
“At least financially it will be fine,” Legault said.
The Prime Minister traveled to Saguenay to see first-hand the devastation caused by the landslide and meet some of the 192 residents who have so far been forced from their homes due to the high risk of further landslides.
Nearly 80 homes in the La Baie de Saguenay borough, about 240 kilometers north of Quebec City, were evacuated.
Legault said at least five other houses will have to be demolished because the ground they are on is too unstable and it is dangerous to live there. Four other houses could be demolished.
Brisson and Simard lived in the house they bought four years ago with their five children, ages 1 to 10. They learned two months ago that their house was in danger of slipping when they received a preventive evacuation order.
The couple told Legault that they had only had time to collect some clothes and a few toys for their children, thinking they might eventually return home to collect more of their belongings.
Legault said the government will increase the amount of financial compensation available to those who have lost or are at risk of losing their homes. The maximum amount will now be $385,000 to cover construction and additional financing to help pay for new furniture and appliances.
Bergeron-Brisson said he did not yet know if this amount would be enough to replace their house, but he thanked the premier for his support.
The couple hope to find a place in the same area for the family to stay.
More help for evacuees
The rest of the homes in the evacuation zone appear to be safe for now, Legault said, but residents won’t be allowed to return home for a few months until further soil testing confirms that they are not at risk.
The government is doubling the daily compensation that evacuees are eligible for, from $20 to $40 per day.
“It will almost cover the food,” laughed Jonathan Ouellette, one of the affected residents. He said they had to dip into their savings for other necessities.
Ouellette’s house is not on the list of houses to be demolished, but Ouellette says he is not holding his breath because he thinks the situation could still change.
“It’s going to be long, that’s all. If you think it’s going to be fixed tomorrow, you’re way off the charts,” he said.
The former Canadian Forces member said he would like to be able to get his military medals if residents are ever allowed to return to the evacuation zone, even briefly, to collect other belongings.
He is now in a hotel and still does not know where he will stay next. He said the city’s municipal housing office offered him an apartment in another borough, but it’s only for a few days and away from where his son lives.
He said finding a new home would not be easy.
“You see the market. Now it’s moving day; you have St. Jean Baptiste Day approaching; you also have Canada’s birthday,” he said. “It’s the perfect storm.”
Dominique Simard and her spouse Alain Larouche, who also live in the evacuation zone, are now staying at the hotel.
“We took what we thought,” Simard said. “We have a cat, we brought it, but we also have fish, for sure it will die.”
Simard and Larouche say they are happy that the government is increasing their daily allowance.
“We get accommodation for free, but we will need all the small items that we have in a house, but won’t have. [where we are now.]”
Simard said they would use the money to buy things like towels, sheets and dishes – and a TV, so they could watch the news.
“We will have to buy all these things, like moving to a new place,” she said.
The mayoress of Saguenay, Julie Dufour, said she was very satisfied with the measures put in place by the province.
“It’s even higher than my expectations. We understand the prime minister has a very busy schedule,” she said. “To me, today, he represents a government of benevolence and empathy for people who experience tragedy.”
The Quebec Ministry of Transport will provide more information on the landslides and their soil analysis on Wednesday evening.