It was a way of life for the people of the Saguenay region. The sun would rise over the pristine Chicoutimi River. That was until August 5, 1996. The Saguenay site is in the central northern region of the province. It includes town such as La Baie, Chicoutimi and Jonquiere.
Torrential rains had fallen since mid-July in the region. Rivers were swollen and reservoirs were filling to the overflow. To understand what came next, you must understand that the Saguenay region is dotted with an overabundance of dams. Many of these dams are privately owned and are used to keep up the reservoirs for the generation of hydroelectric power.
In the follow-up analysis of what caused the disaster, the people blamed the government for not releasing water from the reservoirs at Lac Kenogami until too late. The government blamed the weather.
If they ever figure the cause of the flood, it will not bring back the 10 persons that died. It will be small comfort to the 12,000 residents who fled their homes and will not cover the $700 million in damages.
One silver lining to this story was the way Canadians from all parts of Canada responded to the disaster. The Saguenay is a hot bed for Quebec separatism. In fact it is the home of Lucien Bouchard, chief separatist and Premier of Quebec. But that did not stop Canadians from helping Canadians. Food, clothing and money flowing into the region form ordinary Canadians. The Canadian Military was sent in to aid in the clean-up. I’m sure all Canadians were proud of its Armed Forces.
Quebec’s Environment Minister, David Cliche stated that the floods were caused by the torrential rains which happen “once every 10,000 years”. Let us hope he is right.