Natural disasters: we’re all in the line of fire

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Our Environment by Katharine Fetcher

With recent hurricanes devastating Florida and Caribbean countries, as well as India, with forest fires still blazing across western Canada and the USA, and with other equally grave natural disasters around the world, here in Pontiac, Aylmer and Gatineau, life can seem pretty darn good.  Warning:  we cannot be complacent.

Our Environment by Katharine Fetcher

With recent hurricanes devastating Florida and Caribbean countries, as well as India, with forest fires still blazing across western Canada and the USA, and with other equally grave natural disasters around the world, here in Pontiac, Aylmer and Gatineau, life can seem pretty darn good.  Warning:  we cannot be complacent.
This April, many residents on the Ottawa River flood plains had a stressful spring. As river levels rose, first they sandbagged and installed generators, then many evacuated either by choice or by force.
Floodwaters receded, to be followed by the rains and low temperatures of summer. The wet not only caused nightmares for farmers, where fields bogged machinery and where crop germination was poor in many instances, it also increased homeowners’ stress.
Even though most residents were unaffected by flooding, our region was still targeted by Mother Nature; some still don’t know what’s to become of their homes. This is getting urgent as winter approaches.
One might think that since April, bureaucratic red tape would have been cut to assist these homeowners. That does not appear to be the case.
In April, the province announced that Pontiac was one of ten West Quebec municipalities to receive disaster-relief funding.  This October’s Municipality of Pontiac Bulletin states, “The municipal council has committed to purchase the properties of the first 4 flood victims on Bord-de-l’eau Road who will make use of the severance grant offered by the Ministry of Public Security.”
However, even now, in early October, some residents don’t know where they stand with respect to assistance with their homes.
Cold reality hits
Following the 19 days of heat and humidity in September, we now have a chilly harbinger of what’s approaching. Yes, with temperatures of 2 degrees or lower in the evenings, and highs in the mid-teens, winter is knocking at our doors.
What’s to happen to the West Quebec flood victims? What alarms me is that some homeowners of damaged properties don’t know, either.
Plight right here
When I think of hurricanes and the devastation abroad, it seems impossible to know how we would cope with country-wide calamities, as are residents of Bangladesh, India, Puerto Rico and elsewhere. In so many places, there are no structures left, just swathes of twisted metal, shattered wood, uprooted vegetation, and unsafe water. Imagine no power, no communication, no food, no water.
All this seems unimaginable, for us who are privileged to live in Canada.
Well now, “unimaginable” is not quite the truth, is it? There are many in our country who live in squalor and yes, I’m thinking of many First Nations housing situations.
But also, there are those who live right here in West Quebec, who still don’t know what’s happening to their homes after our springtime floods.
Let’s hope there are answers very soon. Let’s hope homeowners can face a comfortable winter.
This thing called climate change
Climate change? It’s right here, right now. In the next few years, we will likely witness huge migrations of people moving across the planet, chased out of their country by scenes of devastation like we’ve seen this year.
They will be hoping to find a better life — or at least “a life” — in countries like Canada, which represent hope of security from natural disasters.
How will we cope? This is something for us to consider, each and every one of us.
While we do that, let’s as a community figure out how best to help our neighbours.
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, an author, and visual artist. Contact
her at fletcher.katharine@gmail.com.