Search continues for two people missing after Quebec landslide

 SAGUENAY, Que. — A search continued Tuesday for two people swept away by landslides in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region triggered Saturday by a “phenomenal” rainfall that washed away roads and caused flooding. Rescue teams continued to look for a man and woman in their 40s missing in Rivière-Éternité, Que., about 260 kilometres northeast of Quebec City. 

SAGUENAY, Que. — A search continued Tuesday for two people swept away by landslides in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region triggered Saturday by a “phenomenal” rainfall that washed away roads and caused flooding.

Rescue teams continued to look for a man and woman in their 40s missing in Rivière-Éternité, Que., about 260 kilometres northeast of Quebec City. More than 50 residents of the town were forced to leave their homes after a storm on Saturday dumped 130 millimetres of rain in the space of two hours.

During a technical briefing on Tuesday, officials said the “the phenomenal amount” of rain that fell on Saturday in the Parc du Fjord-du-Saguenay triggered seven or eight landslides on the main road that leads to the campground at the provincial park.

An engineer with the Transport Department showed an aerial photo of a vehicle where a landslide occurred on Saturday.

“What we understand of the event is that there was a first small landslide and people got out of the vehicle to clear the debris on the road,” said Denis Demers, an engineer and expert on land movements. “That’s when the biggest part of the landslide happened, pushing them toward the Éternité River, which was a real torrent.”

Demers said one man managed to cling to a tree and was rescued. But a woman was swept toward the river, and she and another man remain missing. Police have not identified the two missing people but have said they were local residents.

The search on Tuesday was focused on a 1.8-kilometre stretch of the small, winding Éternité River, both on the shore and in the water. Quebec provincial police said the operation was being slowed by a number of factors, including debris from the landslide and extreme heat.

Meanwhile, the Transport Department said it was trying to create a bypass around a collapsed section of the highway that runs through the town. The steep terrain and heavy rains caused the water to run off in streams, which in turn overflowed quickly, Demers said.

Authorities said landslides buried the road in several places, and sudden erosion turned ditches into fast-moving streams, with major parts of the road washed away. Repairs in four spots could take several days.

In the municipality of Rivière-Éternité, 48 adults and six children living in 34 homes had to be evacuated. The results of geothermal inspections revealed no threat of landslides for 33 sites analyzed near private homes, according to the Transport Department. The houses will still need to be surveyed for damage before people can return home.

Provincial police also evacuated by helicopter 94 people staying at the provincial park campground, while another 133 vacationers were taken by boat to nearby La Baie.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2023.

— By Stéphane Blais in Montreal.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the rainstorm occurred on Sunday.

 

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