The floods in Saguenay

The Canadian Red Cross
Photo : Canadian Armed Forces, Bagotville military base

The Canadian Red Cross was a major player in the relief and solidarity operations. 1700 volunteers participated in the progress of the emergency assistance. Over 6000 meals were served by Red Cross volunteers between July 20th and 29th 1996.

In the week of July 21st 1996, The Canadian Red Cross board of directors announced the creation of a special foundation to help the disaster victims and to bring them financial support to buy essential goods. On November 12th 1996, only four months after the floods, the cash donations accumulated in the solidarity foundation reached a total over 27,5 million dollars, and in all, 29,2 million dollars were collected from all over the country. More than 1000 financial aid envelopes were distributed to the people who were evacuated for more than
14 days.

Gift of solidarity
Photo : Hydro-Québec
Many organisations such as
Hydro-Quebec contributed to
the Red Cross Gift of
solidarity foundation.

The distribution of the solidarity funds, to the Saguenay flood victims, was carried out in five phases and according to needs. One part of the funds, 1,5 million dollars, was even given out to the Manitoba Red River flood victims of April 1997.

The disastrous floods of July 1996 represent a real social drama for the whole of the Saguenay's community. Although very trying, such an event doesn't only mean negative repercussions. This overwhelming event helped in the development of community movements, the deployment of unparalleled energy, the show of creativity and innovation on top of energising a whole community. These floods became a unifying moment for the whole population of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.

Different social contributors (the Army, municipalities, social workers, doctors, etc.) rapidly intervened in the emergency measures. Thousands of volunteers generously gave their time, sparing nothing to relieve the suffering of others, to save the national heritage and to reinforce he sentiment of collective solidarity.

The regional population reacted very well in the face of the social drama lived by thousands. In the midst of the floods, disaster victims benefited from the major mobilisation of the other citizens. The population of the Saguenay acted as a welded and courageous community in order to take their lives back. The Saguenay became a real human solidarity laboratory.

The governmental authorities rapidly came to the area to evaluate the extent of the damage, but also to offer moral support to the disaster stricken population. During his stay, Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chrétien listened to the accounts of people that had been evacuated from their homes.

Encouraging words were written all over the place. On Armed forces vehicles, used in the fresh water supply for the disaster victims, moral support messages could be read.

Throughout the whole operation, the local media was present in order to inform the population on the condition of the situation. Moreover, they sent out evacuation notices and messages to those who could return to their homes.

To shelter the disaster victims, the Université du Québec in Chicoutimi put up 300 beds in its Sport pavilion. It is also in the main building of this schooling institution that the Red Cross settled its headquarters to offer clothing and food to the evacuated population.

The lack of fresh water in most of the Saguenay's homes was compensated by the distribution of 100 000 litres of water.

Bagotville military baseFrom the start of the July 1996 floods, the military personnel of the Bagotville military base were rapidly rounded up to help the police corps. With the help of their colleagues from the Valcartier military base, they set up 400 tents that could take in a thousand people.

Photo : Canadian Armed Forces, Bagotville military base

Bagotville military base
Photo : Canadian Armed Forces, Bagotville military base

The Bagotville 3rd Squadron led a relief operation, which spread out on a 10-day period. This ambitious operation helped in 40 sanitary evacuations, displacing 2 030 people, to feed and shelter over 3 000 disaster stricken victims and to airlift over 15 000 kilograms of supplies to the isolated communities.

Representing over 400 hours of flight, the military of the Bagotville 3rd Squadron succeeded in 750 airlifted rescue missions during the evacuation operation of the disaster victims. For a whole week, 2 600 people where invited to leave their homes. On July 21st 1996, in the La Baie district alone, 1 500 people were evacuated with the help of 14 helicopters. The whole operation lasted six hours.

The Canadian Armed Forces airlifted hundreds of disaster stricken people. Moreover, they welcomed over 3 000 people on the base and sheltered 800 of them between July 20th and August 12th 1996.
At the Bagotville military base, clothes and other essential articles were handed out to the affected population. On top of this, 40 000 meals were served, meaning over 1 000 a day.

The Saint-Vincent-de-Paul foundation managed the funds in a remarkable way, this thanks to the enterprising and the resourcefulness of its managers and volunteers. The "Disaster relief" operation was an overall success. The volunteers came out of this ordeal with a feeling of great deed. Over 200 000 hours of services to the disaster victims were given by the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul volunteers.

Global estimation of donations
Different types of donations received by the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul foundation account for over 15 million dollars.
100 tons of clothes estimated at 6 000 000$
100 hand made quilts from Alberta's Ukrainian community
200 refrigerators
200 washer/dryer kits
50 separate washers and dryers
400 stoves
5 250 000$ of furniture
50 000$ in toys and school accessories
800 000$ in construction material and tools
300 000$ in non-perishable goods
100 000$ in hygiene products
Photo : Société Saint-Vincent-de-Paul

The Bluenose sailboat is berthed in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. This is the boat appearing on the Canadian ten cent. After the July 1996 Saguenay floods, the crew of the huge sailboat decided to tour some of Canada's seaports. When the Bluenose was docked, people could visit and sign a card destined to the July 1996 disaster victims of the events in the Saguenay region.

On these cards, visitors wrote many messages of encouragement and of moral support to the disaster stricken victims of the July 1996 floods. Once the port visits were over, all the signed cards were brought back to the La Baie district and were then given to the Musée du Fjord.

Messages on the cards came in from all over the country.

When the Bluenose was docked in the La Baie harbour, an artist from the district took the time to immortalise the scene in order to keep the memory of this expression of solidarity.

Reproduction of the Bluenose
Le Blue Nose a été donné par l'équipage au Musée du Fjord
(Juillet 1997)