Exactly 50 years ago today, the Saguenay region experienced one of its greatest natural disasters in its history: the Saint-Jean Vianney landslide.
On the evening of May 4, 1971, disaster struck the residents of Saint-Jean-Vianney, when a massive landslide was triggered by unstable soil. In one night, several cars, a bus and 42 houses were engulfed by the slide. Thirty-one people were reported missing; 13 were never found. The emergency services were quickly called to the scene and, given the magnitude of the natural disaster, Bagotville's military personnel stepped in.
A few years earlier, in 1966, the Bagotville base authorities had set up a search and rescue squadron. The first two Vertol H-21 helicopters arrived in the fall of that year. These were the aircraft that were called in to assist Saint-Jean-Vianney. Military pilots flew over an enormous clay crater 300 metres across and 60 metres deep for several days to locate survivors. Search and rescue technicians dropped from the helicopters to recover people in distress. It is estimated that 15 people who had sought refuge on the roof of their houses were saved thanks to the Bagotville crews.
Photo : Vertol H-21 intervention in the Saint-Jean-Vianney crater.