A Port aux Basques woman was swept away at sea as she was about to leave her home, RCMP say

A 73-year-old Port aux Basques woman was killed by a massive wave as she prepared to flee her home, according to RCMP in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Police said the woman was at home with another person and the two were securing the property Saturday morning as post-tropical storm Fiona intensified.

A person was outside when a large storm surge hit the house and swept everything into the basement.

« When the other person came in to check on her, she was nowhere to be found, » the capt said. Jolene Garland, media relations officer for the RCMP in NL.

A call was made to the police, but the storm was too intense for a search to begin. Port aux Basques was battered by wind and waves, which flattened about 20 homes in the small oceanside town. When conditions calmed down, the RCMP were able to get out and search for the woman, along with the Canadian Coast Guard and ground search and rescue teams from Barachois and Stephenville.

RCMP Corporal. Jolene Garland said the recovery mission was a joint effort, with multiple teams and locals working together to find the woman’s body. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The woman’s body was found shortly before 4 p.m. on Sunday, thanks to the combined efforts of several teams.

« As the helicopter was patrolling the air it was moving objects in the water and one of our officers on shore spotted what he believed to be a body, » Garland said.

The woman’s body has been sent to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in St. John’s to confirm the cause of death.

« It’s a tragic situation, but we are at least grateful that she was able to be returned to her loved ones, » Garland said.

« [It’s] never easy to announce that it looks like it will be a recovery instead of a rescue mission, but [when dealing] with the ocean, not everyone we can bring home to their loved ones. »

Condolences flow

While Fiona has hammered other parts of Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province with confirmed loss of life directly linked to the storm.

The tragedy prompted an outpouring of condolences, including from the most powerful people in the country.

“My heart breaks for the family and friends of the Port aux Basques woman who died when Hurricane Fiona made landfall,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a social media post.

“We are keeping you in our thoughts — and we will continue to ensure that you and your fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have the support you need.

Prime Minister Andrew Furey also weighed in, calling it « heartbreaking news » and sent his condolences to the woman’s family and friends.

The RCMP are still urging people not to return to their properties until they can be inspected. Garland said several other properties could be at risk of collapse.

« We don’t want more devastation than we’ve already had, » she said.


Residents of NL describe a harrowing experience through Fiona

Residents of Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland describe the harrowing experience of living through post-tropical storm Fiona — and what they witness afterward.

Learn more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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