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Canada’s Quebec battles flooding; police search for toddler, man washed away

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(Reuters) – Quebec police wanted to send divers into a swollen river on Monday to find a toddler and a man who were washed away as heavy rain flooded homes and streets, as the government sent troops to lay sandbags to protect homes from floodwaters.

Schools and government buildings were closed in some areas as the province grapples with its worst flooding in decades. Montreal, Quebec’s largest city, declared a state of emergency on Sunday and sent the military to assist.

Divers will be looking for the man and a toddler whose car was swept away Sunday night after a turn in a river in the Gaspé region in the eastern part of the province, a Quebec police spokesman said.

The man, a child and a woman climbed onto the roof of the car, but rough seas overturned the car and all three fell into the water. Claude Duvalonte said. The woman fled while hanging from a tree branch. The man and child were swept away and were still missing as of Monday morning, police said.

Helicopters were unable to provide assistance because of the weather, and about 30 police and firefighters were patrolling the river bank. Three to four divers are expected to join the search.

Quebec Public Safety Minister Martin Cottex told reporters that flooding in Montreal was expected to peak later on Monday. The Red Cross is asking for donations to provide emergency aid to more than 1,500 people displaced by the floods.

“Now we have to start from scratch again,” said Mina Tayarani, 53, whose family moved from Iran in 2004.

Slideshow ( 15 pictures )

Tayalani and her family have been sleeping in a local preschool for two days since their Montreal home was flooded.

The Canadian military has deployed nearly 1,600 troops to deal with the aftermath of the flooding. About 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) of rain fell in eastern Ontario and western Quebec late last week.

Both provinces are struggling with the effects of heavy spring rains.

Flooding had affected 146 cities in Quebec province as of Sunday evening, flooding thousands of homes and forcing about 1,520 people to evacuate, according to Quebec emergency reports.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited a flooded community on Sunday and helped fill sandbags in his hometown.

Reporting by Anna Paperny; Editing by Dan Grabler and Bernadette Baum

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