MONTREAL/TORONTO Torrential rains in central and eastern Canada forced hundreds of families to evacuate flooded homes and prompted the province of Quebec to request federal military aid on Friday.
Starting Saturday, soldiers will be brought in to add resources and expertise to officials who are bracing for further downpours in parts of Quebec this weekend, the province's Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux told journalists at a news conference in Montreal.
"The situation will continue to deteriorate over the next few days," Coiteux said, adding that the number of soldiers had not yet been determined.
Up to 60 mm of rain (2.4 inches) will fall in eastern Ontario and western Quebec between Thursday night and Sunday evening, according to state weather forecasting service Environment Canada.
Both provinces have been dealing with fallout from heavy spring rainfall this week, and at least 124 Quebec municipalities were affected by flooding that inundated 1,326 residences, and forced the evacuation of 700 homes, according to Urgences Quebec.
Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel described the rainfall in the predominately French-language province as historic, and said his department recorded the strongest water flow rate in 55 years, or 9,000 cubic metres per second.
Televised images showed residents filling sandbags across communities in Quebec, while people were evacuated by boat or canoe. In Toronto, which sits on the north shore of Lake Ontario, city workers have worked on beaches and the city's harbor islands to prevent flooding.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was in regular contact with provincial authorities.
"We stand ready and willing to give whatever help the federal government can to help them through this situation, and we will of course be there as the clean up continues after the waters recede," Trudeau said at an event in Montreal.
Toronto, Canada's biggest city, was forecast to receive 20 mm (1 inch) to 30 mm of rain on Friday, with more over the weekend, according to Environment Canada, which issued a rainfall warning.
About 200 outbound and inbound flights at the city's Pearson International Airport, the country's biggest, were canceled as of midday, according to the airport website.
In the nation's capital, Ottawa, 15-25 mm of rain was expected. A state of emergency was declared in the town of Clarence-Rockland, east of Ottawa, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation televised images of flooded roads and people trying to make their way by canoe.
(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal, Denny Thomas in Toronto and Leah Schnurr in Ottawa; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Andrew Hay)