We told you about the big storm that hit Montreal Wednesday and Thursday and that 300 motorists were stranded on a highway, but today we learned that some were in their cars for 12 or 13 hours before being rescued. There are calls for the transport minister to resign over this, and Montreal’s mayor is demanding answers.
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Highway is not remote
This highway is not in the middle of nowhere. It is a major artery that was blocked by an accident involving a tractor-trailer that occurred shortly after 6 p.m. It was blocked in only one direction and frustrated motorists could see cars moving freely in the other direction.
Stranded motorists called the emergency number, 911. Patrol officers arrived and called for plowing and towing services, but by then the road was blocked with vehicles and the highway was closed.
City not informed motorists were stranded
The Department of Transport told city staff that the highway was closed at 11:50 p.m. but did not say that vehicles were trapped with people in them. Over time, more than 300 people called for help but it was not until 3:30 a.m. that the city was informed that people were stranded.
Luckily, firefighters had, on their own, decided to act and, at 4:30a.m., came to get people out. By then it was -8 C with a wind chill of -19. Shortly after, a lane was provided on the other side of the highway for cars to finally move through.
Some vehicles abandoned
Overnight, one diabetic man had to abandon his car because his blood sugar was low and other people left when their cars ran out of gas and it got very cold. There were children in some cars. Some people left their vehicles to see if others were okay and to offer snacks or water.
Montreal is a city which gets snow every year and is well equipped to deal with it. Even in the face of this record snowfall, it is incredible that people could have been stranded for so long. The public security minister says there was a communication breakdown, but he has promised to find out more about why this happened. There are calls for an independent inquiry.