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Climate Change Blamed as Flooding Forces Thousands to Evacuate in Canada

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Canadian police officers stand a boat on a flooded street in suburbs of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on April 28, 2019. SEBASTIEN ST-JEAN / AFP / Getty Images

Flooding in four Canadian provinces has forced thousands of people to evacuate, and leaders across the country are blaming climate change.

Communities in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec are all impacted and both Montreal and Ottawa have declared states of emergency, CTV news reported Saturday. The flooding comes just two years after heavy rain and snowmelt contributed to the worst floods in decades in Ontario and Quebec, according to Global News.


"This flooding is happening here in Quebec, it's happening in Ontario, it's happening in New Brunswick. And really sadly, what we thought was one-in-100-year floods are now happening every five years, in this case, every two years," Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Thursday, according to Global News. "I remember sandbagging with folks in both Ontario and Quebec just two years ago … people whose houses were being affected whose lives are being affected. We know that climate change is real … we are going to continue to see this."

Flood records have been broken along some parts of the Ottawa river, and more records are expected to break in coming days, CBC reported Sunday. The Ottawa River Regulating Committee predicted water levels would peak Tuesday or Wednesday. Records are already being broken in Lac Coulonge, Arnprior and Ottawa.

"They say it's 100-year storms — well it's a few years later and we're back in the same boat," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Friday, according to Global News. "Something is going on and we have to be conscious of it."

The city of Montreal extended a state of emergency for another five days on Sunday, Global News reported. The city expects to see water levels continue to rise Monday and Tuesday, as residents and authorities are working to prevent dikes from failing in some areas.

In Pierrefonds, water levels have surpassed the 2017 levels and residents are working to hold back the waters by building a 0.5 kilometer (approximately 0.3 miles) dike on top of a permanent dirt dike.

Allison Hanes warned in The Montreal Gazette that this could be the "new normal" for the region:

Although Pierrefonds borough Mayor Jim Beis says lessons from 2017 and quick action have protected hundreds of homes this time around, the flooding is already worse in some areas and the toll already higher than the calamity of 2017.

We are in uncharted waters. But the really scary part is that this could be the new normal — a terrifying new reality that has long been foretold, but is now upon us.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale explained why climate change makes historic flooding more likely, as Global News reported.

"This is one of the most obvious manifestations of a changing climate," Goodale said. "More unstable weather conditions where you can get precipitation that dumps years worth of moisture in a day or two. And then it all floods and causes enormous damage to private property as well as public infrastructure, as well as the economy."

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.