A broken water main unleashed a torrent.

A torrent of brown water surged through the streets of Montreal yesterday afternoon, sweeping residents off their feet and making the center city an impassable web of churning moats.

The cause, officials said, was the rupture of a four-foot water main, which flooded intersections, basements and garages downtown at around 4:30 p.m. At least three people were swept off their feet. Peter Rakobowchuk and Nelson Wyatt of the Canadian Press write that residents did their best to carry on:

Philippe Whitford, a 38-year-old program analyst, gave new meaning to the term double-bagging: he wrapped himself in two layers of green plastic bags and made his way through the knee-deep water outside his building.

But the temperature was in the mid-teens, so in addition to freezing water, Montrealeans face the prospect of serious ice build-up. Two people were hospitalized for slipping on the ice. Evening classes at McGill University, near the epicenter of the floods, were cancelled, and several streets remained closed to traffic into the night.

How bad could it be? This is what happened when a McGill student tried to cross the street:

Here's more downtown footage, via the CBC:

Top image: Screenshot, via CBC.

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