Flood relief meeting in Gatineau overflows with worried residents
They started lining up an hour and a half before the meeting even started.
Soon, the trickle of people became a torrent, and a public meeting on flood relief in Gatineau was overwhelmed with a flood of anxious residents looking for help.
The auditorium at École Polyvalente Nicolas-Gatineau was soon overflowing beyond capacity, forcing organizers to open a second, impromptu meeting in the school’s cafeteria.
The residents were there to learn about Quebec’s Financial Assistance to Disaster Victims program.
The program offers limited funds for costs incurred battling the flood, evacuating, cleaning up, and basic repairs and replacements.
The unexpected number of residents who attended seemed to reflect the growing uncertainty among residents in the wake of the flood.
“Everything is destroyed, really. The whole house is gone, so what's going to happen next?" asked David Blais.
"It's so hard because from each day you don't know what's going to happen. You live your life right now day-by-day," adds George Robitaille.
Many residents are worried the provincial aid won’t be enough.
"If you lose a hundred thousand dollars and they come up with ten thousand dollars and give it to us, what a big deal," remarks Marcello Melona.
"What's going to be covered? How's it going to work? How long is it going to take? My basement is full right to the windows," says Michel Lacroix.
Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, understands their frustration. He says any shortfalls in relief money could be offset in part by donations made to the local Red Cross. “That money will be added to the provincial program and we've got guarantees for that," he states.
Pedneaud-Jobin also says the city is deferring this year’s second property tax payment for flood victims. They can pay it over the course of 2018. And he says Gatineau is hoping to re-adjust their property assessments based on their condition after the disaster is over.
That will add some measure of relief down the road, but if the huge turnout to the public meeting shows anything it’s that there are a great many people looking for a great deal of help right now.
Says Robitaille, “we just want our life back. That’s all we want.”