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Quebec Premier Jean Charest speaks to reporters in the town of St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., Saturday, May 21, 2011 about the ongoing flood situation in the Richelieu valley region. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)
Quebec Premier Jean Charest speaks to reporters in the town of St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., Saturday, May 21, 2011 about the ongoing flood situation in the Richelieu valley region. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Military help to double for flooded Quebec region Add to ...

The Canadian Forces have doubled the number of troops to help flood victims along the Richelieu River where high winds on Monday dramatically increased water levels to new heights.

Winds as strong as 60 to 70 kilometres per hour unleashed strong waves that came crashing on flooded properties throughout the day and night, destroying homes and eroding shorelines.

For the second time during the holiday weekend, Quebec Premier Jean Charest returned to the flood site in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu after asking federal Defence Minister Peter MacKay to order another 250 soldiers into the area.

"I spoke to Mr. MacKay yesterday (Sunday) and told him the importance of having the Canadian Forces present," Mr. Charest said during a news conference on Monday.

The floods, which began almost a month ago and are unprecedented for the flood-ravaged 15 communities along the river, has been hard on the morale of residents who are tired and beleaguered by the impact the disaster has had on their lives.

Almost 3,000 homes have been flooded and close to 1,500 people evacuated. The waters receded briefly last week but rain and strong winds have made the situation worst than it was when the disaster hit.

The Premier did not join in criticism of those who contend the troops should have been deployed much earlier. As many as 800 soldiers were in the region earlier this month to help sandbag homes and enforce security measures when water levels reached record levels. However, many were recalled leaving 250 to deal with the situation. Community leaders argued that they should have stayed.

"The army made the commitment to be present by taking into account the needs," Mr. Charest said. " We don't want to judge anyone. We are working with them and everyone is doing the best they can under the circumstances."

Some residents believed that Ottawa should have done more. Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured the damages caused by the flooding in Manitoba and the wild fires in Alberta but has yet to meet with residents in Richelieu Valley flood zone. Mr. Charest refused to comment Mr. Harper's absence.

"The federal government has a role to play and we expect them to play it," Mr. Charest said.

Brigadier-General Simon Hébert made it clear that the reinforcements will be able to respond quickly as the situation deteriorated. "We are getting to the point where the situation is critical. We are ready to intervene.... All the troops will be there to face the crisis," he said.

Mr. Charest said he also spoke with the Governor of Vermont Peter Shumlin who was dealing with a similar disaster south of the border. They agreed that solutions had to be examined with the State of New York to examine ways to contend the waters of Lake Champlain in order to avoid similar flooding from occurring again.

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