(Reuters) - Debris-filled choppy waters on Monday kept divers from searching for a toddler and her stepfather who were swept away in a swollen Quebec river as the military battled to protect the flooded province.
Quebec was in the grip of historic flooding, forcing more than 1,500 people in 146 communities to flee their homes, officials said. Canada's federal government has deployed 1,650 troops and 250,000 sandbags to the inundated province, the officials said.
Montreal, Quebec's largest city, and several other municipalities have declared a state of emergency.
"It’s a serious situation, but people should know that every level of government is pulling together seamlessly to do everything necessary to keep Canadians safe," Ralph Goodale, public safety minister, told reporters in Ottawa.
The man and 2-year-old girl were swept away after their car swerved into the Sainte-Anne River, a tributary of the Saint Lawrence River in the province's eastern Gaspé region, on Sunday evening, a Quebec police spokesman said.
The man, the girl and the child's mother had climbed onto the roof of the vehicle but choppy waters flipped the car over, sending all three into the water, Sgt. Claude Doiron said.
The woman hung onto a branch, escaped, then was taken to the hospital. She was released from the hospital Sunday evening but her husband and toddler were swept away and remained missing as of Monday afternoon, police said.
About 30 police officers and firefighters patrolled the river banks as the severe weather made it impossible to use helicopters. Divers headed to the scene Monday afternoon but conditions were expected to be too harsh for them to enter the water, Doiron said.
The floodwaters were expected to peak in Montreal later on Monday, Quebec Public Safety Minister Martin Coiteux told reporters. The Red Cross asked for donations to provide emergency aid to more than 1,500 displaced by the floods.
"We couldn't save anything," Mina Tayarani, 53, whose family moved from Iran in 2004, told Reuters while standing outside her Montreal home. "Now we have to start from zero a second time,"
Approximately 60 mm (2.4 inches) of rain fell in eastern Ontario and western Quebec late last week.
Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Dan Grebler, Bernadette Baum and Jeffrey Benkoe