The sun shone on some of the most flood-ravaged parts of Gatineau on Saturday as neighbours and strangers joined forces to help clean up.
On rue Rodolphe, an exhausted Lyne Blondeau watched as volunteers formed human chains to move sandbags onto the street to be trucked away.
“That is really great. It is good to see there are people here for us.”
Blondeau was able to remain in her home, which had four-and-a-half feet of water in the basement, but her uncle who lived downstairs had to move and everything down there was ruined.
Things are beginning to get cleaned up as the water continues to recede, but Blondeau said it has taken its toll.
“We can’t do it anymore. We are exhausted.” She said she “hurts everywhere” from all the lifting and moving she has been doing.
The City of Gatineau called on volunteers to help with the massive task of moving 200,000 sandbags around the city so that they can be taken away. STO buses transported about 400 volunteers in the morning and an additional 200 in the afternoon who worked with about 60 members of the military.
City spokesman Yves Melanson said more volunteers are needed Sunday to get the job done.
“Their help is invaluable and their generosity is remarkable,” the city said in a release.
Many of those who went out Saturday said they had no connection with the people whose houses were flooded but were moved by their plight and wanted to help them get back to normal.
“I felt so sorry for these people, so I wanted to do something,” said Hull resident Carole Dion.
Andreanne Fournier, who lives in Ottawa, and her friend Julie Bedard, who lives near the flooded areas but was not affected, said they decided to volunteer to give tired homeowners some support.
“I think they are courageous and I hope they didn’t get too much damage,” said Fournier. “Today it is a sunny day and I see them on their balconies. I hope seeing us working on their lawn makes them feel a little bit better … they can rest and maybe have more strength to continue.”
Retired letter carrier Ken Lloyd, who only has one working lung, and tax lawyer Sandy Davidson, came from Ottawa to help after watching the devastation from the flooding on the news.
Davidson said he took off work last Monday to volunteer helping with cleanup at Constance Bay.
Lloyd said he was amazed to see the after-effects of the flood on Gatineau streets that had been affected. In front of some houses, furniture, carpets drywall, wood and more is piled along streets waiting to be taken away along with the sandbags.
“I was amazed,” said Lloyd. “I didn’t realize it was this extensive until I saw how many houses had sandbags in front of them and damage. It is incredible.”
Sand from the sandbags will be reused by Gatineau for construction projects, including as backfill to build new streets.
The city will likely organize more volunteer days to help with post-flood cleanup.
“The cleanup is going to take a long time,” said Melanson.
Volunteers were also working on the Ottawa side of the river this weekend to help with sandbag removal.
The City of Ottawa is asking volunteers over 16 to show up over the long weekend to help. Volunteers can go to the Dunrobin Fire Hall between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. or the Fitzroy Fire Hall, between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on all three days of the week. Volunteers are also needed at Cumberland, at Morin and Phillip Roads, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday, and at Cassels and Bradford streets in Britannia between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday.
Ottawa is collecting waste and debris daily for flood affected residents.
More information about volunteering and waste removal is available on the City of Ottawa’s website ottawa.ca.