Four missing as family home swallowed up by giant sink hole in Quebec
at 12:50 on May 11, 2010, EDT.
Jonathan Montpetit, The Canadian Press
SAINT-JUDE, - A family home was suddenly gobbled up by the earth, and
rescue crews frantically searched for two children and two adults
Tuesday after the ground collapsed in a small town near Montreal.
The geological incident northeast of the city caused part of the house
to sink near the Yamaska River. Three cars in front of the house were
also swept away, as was part of a nearby road.
The missing are a man and a woman in their 40s as well as two children
— a fourth-grader and a high-school student.
It was a solemn day at the younger child's elementary school as word
immediately rippled through the town about the accident, which occured
"It's a pretty gigantic crater," said Francois Gregoire, a fire
"It's hard imagining something like this. It's pretty impressive."
Gregoire said the house was quite far from the river before the land
gave way but that part of it ended up in the water. He said rescuers
were able to partially enter the collapsed house but could not locate
the missing people.
He said firefighters had to retreat because of unstable ground. Soil
scientists arrived on the scene to determine if the ground was stable
enough for rescuers to re-enter the home.
Television pictures from the scene showed a large gaping hole in a
two-lane road and only the green roof of a house visible from the road.
A truck driver who was rescued told police he saw the land slide,
strike the home and carry it partially into the river.
Quebec provincial police spokesman Ronald McInnis said firefighters
were able to get into the house but had to retreat when it started
"Then other firefighters from St-Hyacinthe came, got into the house and
the same thing happened, so they also got out," he said.
Reports say at least five other houses have been evacuated in the area,
affecting about 20 people. Police have closed a six-kilometre stretch
of a secondary road where the affected houses are located.
Mayor Yves Bellefeuille said the community is in shock, especially
since the home is not in an area considered to be at risk.
Bellefeuille added that officials are trying to "reassure citizens" and
that counsellors will be brought in to assist people who need help.
The area affected is near Saint-Jude, about 50 kilometres from Montreal.
The classrooms were silent at Aux Quatre-Vents elementary school, where
the younger child is in fourth grade.
Principal Chantal Chagnon said she had never seen the bustling building
so quiet. In a small town like this one, she said, word spread quickly
and the students knew why there was an empty seat in the classroom.
"We told them that since there is no official word we can still cross
our fingers," she said.
"We told them that in times like these we have have to take care of
She said the school encouraged students to ask questions and the most
common query was, "Will this happen to my house?"